United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
19, 2015, Plaintiff Kimberly Herron applied for Supplemental
Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
The claimant alleged a disability beginning on March 19, 2011
preventing her from employment. (R. 138). The Commissioner
denied her claim on September 28, 2015. The Plaintiff then
filed a timely request for and received a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge. (R. 81). The ALJ held the hearing
on November 9, 2016. (R. 31).
decision dated June 1, 2017, the ALJ denied the claim,
finding that the claimant was not disabled under the Social
Security Act and thus not entitled to social security
disability benefits. (R. 10, 25). On February 15, 2018, the
Appeals Council denied a subsequent request for review. (R.
1-6). Consequently, the ALJ’s decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Chester v. Bowen,
792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). The claimant has
exhausted her administrative remedies, and this court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3). Based on the court’s review of the record
in this case and the parties’ briefs, the court will
affirm the Commissioner’s decision.
claimant presents the following issues for review:
Whether the ALJ had sufficient evidence to make an informed
decision when the record did not contain an IQ test;
Whether the ALJ erred by failing to expressly consider the
claimant’s “extremely low intellectual
functioning” under Listing 12.05; and
Whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
conclusion that the claimant has a residual functional
capacity to find work within the economy.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner’s decision is
limited. The court must affirm the Commissioner’s
decision if the Commissioner applied the correct legal
standards and if substantial evidence supports his factual
conclusions. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham
v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997);
Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
. . . presumption of validity attaches to the
[Commissioner’s] legal conclusions, including
determination of the proper standards to be applied in
evaluating claims.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999.
The court does not review the Commissioner’s factual
determinations de novo. The court will affirm those
factual determinations supported by substantial evidence.
“Substantial evidence” is “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant’s residual functional capacity, and the
application of vocational factors “are not medical
opinions, . . . but are, instead, the opinions on issues
reserved to the Commissioner because they are administrative
findings that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would
direct the determination or decision of disability.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(d). Whether the
claimant meets the listing and is qualified for Social
Security disability benefits is a question reserved for the
ALJ, and the court “may not decide facts anew, reweigh
the evidence, or substitute its judgment of that of the
Commissioner.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, even if the court were to
disagree with the ALJ about the significance of certain
facts, the court has no power to reverse that finding if
substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner]’s
factual findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the decision of the ALJ, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence
that detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th Cir.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
disability benefits when the person is unable to
“engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason
of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months . . . .” To make this
determination, the Commissioner employs a five-step,
sequential evaluation process.
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person’s impairment severe?
(3) Does the person’s impairment meet or equal one of
the specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads
either to the next question, or, on steps three and five, to
a finding of disability. A negative answer to any question,
other than step three, leads to a determination of “not
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
satisfy step three, the claimant’s impairment must meet
“all of the criteria” of that listing under 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, “including any
relevant criteria in the introduction, and the duration
requirement.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(c)(3). To have a
disability under Listing 12.05, the claimant must show that
she has (1) significantly subaverage general intellectual
functioning; (2) significant deficits in adaptive
functioning; and (3) a history of disorder that demonstrates
the disorder began prior to the age of 22. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1, § 12.05.
the second element of Listing 12.05, to establish significant
deficits in adaptive functioning, the ALJ must find one
extreme limitation or two marked limitations in the following
areas of mental functioning: (1) understanding, remembering,
and applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3)
concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or (4)
adapting or managing oneself. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1, § 12.05. The ALJ must find the same significant
deficits in adaptive functioning for the claimant to have a
disability under Listings 12.02, 12.04, and 12.06. 20 C.F.R.
Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, §§ 12.02, 12.04, 12.06.
considering a claimant’s case, the ALJ has a basic
obligation to develop a full and fair record, which ensures
that the ALJ has fulfilled his duty to scrupulously and
conscientiously probe into, inquire of, and explore for all
the relevant facts. Welch v. Bowen, 854 F.2d 436,
440 (11th Cir. 1988). A full and fair record is one that
enables a reviewing court “to determine whether the
ultimate decision on the merits is rational and supported by
substantial evidence.” See Id . A full and
fair record must include the claimant’s medical history
for the 12 months prior to the date of the application for
Supplemental Security Income. Ellison v. Barnhart,
355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
claimant bears the burden to prove that she is disabled.
See Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir.
2001). While the ALJ must consider all the relevant facts,
she does not need to explicitly evaluate the claimant’s
impairment under every listing. Hutchison v. Bowen,
787 F.2d 1461, 1463 (11th Cir. 1986). However, when
evaluating the evidence, the ALJ must state with
particularity the weight she gave different medical opinions
and the reasons for that weight; the failure to do so is
reversible error. Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278,
279 (11th Cir. 1987).
claimant was 41 years old at the time of the ALJ’s
final decision. (R. 34). The claimant has an eighth grade
education and no past relevant work, though she briefly
worked at a furniture plant, car wash, and fast food chain at
separate times prior to 2010. (R. 36, 47, 160). The
claimant’s original application alleges disability
based on back pain and mental problems. (R. 159).
the claimant appeals the ALJ’s evaluations of only her
mental impairments and not her physical impairments, the
claimant did apply for disability based on her chronic back
pain, so the ...