United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Juan Derek Kinard, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying his application for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental security income. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff timely
pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies, and the
decision of the Commissioner is ripe for review. For the
reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is due
to be affirmed.
FACTS, FRAMEWORK, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was thirty-eight years old at the time of the unfavorable
decision issued by the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ”). (See R. 27, 37). Plaintiff
speaks English and has less than a high school education; he
was placed in special education classes until he dropped out
of school in the eleventh grade. (R. 36). Plaintiff has prior
work experience as a packer and construction laborer. (R.
46). Plaintiff filed the instant application on May 5, 2015,
alleging a disability onset of August 1, 2013, due to back
pain, knee pain, and mental conditions. (R. 34, 185).
Plaintiff's date last insured was March 31, 2014. (R. 21,
application followed his March 18, 2015 release from the
psychiatric unit of Mountain View Hospital. (R. 361).
Plaintiff was admitted there on March 3, 2015, exhibiting
anger and anxiety and reporting visual and auditory
hallucinations. (Id.). Plaintiff was diagnosed with
depressive disorder and adjustment disorder with disturbance
of emotions and conduct. (R. 363). Plaintiff was not taking
medications at the time of his admission, but medications
administered during his hospitalization stabilized his mood
and improved his condition. (R. 361-63). At discharge,
Plaintiff was stable, cognitively intact, and had a good
prognosis. (R. 363).
2015 hospitalization was preceded by a 2014 hospitalization
in the psychiatric unit of Gadsden Regional Medical Center,
where he was admitted for worsening agitated behavior. (R.
333). Plaintiff reported mild to moderate paranoia, anxiety,
and mood swings. (R. 335). Plaintiff was diagnosed with
intermittent explosive disorder, mood disorder, and
personality disorder. (R. 336). Plaintiff was discharged in
stable condition after six days, when it was determined he
had received maximum benefit from hospitalization. (R. 333).
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination whether the claimant is performing substantial
gainful activity ("SGA"). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in SGA, he or
she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If
the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the Commissioner proceeds
to consider the combined effects of all the claimant's
physical and mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These impairments must
be severe and must meet durational requirements before a
claimant will be found disabled. Id. The decision
depends on the medical evidence in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971). If the
claimant's impairments are not severe, the analysis
stops. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). Otherwise, the analysis continues to step
three, at which the Commissioner determines whether the
claimant's impairments meet the severity of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the impairments fall within this category, the claimant
will be found disabled without further consideration.
Id. If the impairments do not fall within the
listings, the Commissioner determines the claimant's
residual functional capacity ("RFC"). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
four the Commissioner determines whether the impairments
prevent the claimant from returning to past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, he
or she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id.
If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the
analysis proceeds to the fifth step, at which the
Commissioner considers the claimant's RFC, as well as the
claimant's age, education, and past work experience, to
determine whether he or she can perform other work.
Id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, he or
she is not disabled. Id.
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found Plaintiff
had not engaged in SGA since his application date. (R. 21).
At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffered from the
following severe impairments: (1) schizophrenia; (2)
personality disorder; (3) depression; and (4) substance
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling any
of the listed impairments. (R. 21-22). Before proceeding to
step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform the full range of work at all exertional levels but
could not be exposed to hazardous machinery. (R. 23).
Additionally, the ALJ found Plaintiff's RFC was subject
to the following non-exertional limitations: (1) he could
remember short, simple instructions, but not detailed or
complex instructions; (2) he could perform simple, routine,
repetitive tasks, but not detailed or complex tasks; (3) he
could have no more than occasional contact with the general
public and co-workers; (4) he could adapt to occasional
changes in the work place, so long as they were
well-explained and introduced gradually; (5) he could
“perform jobs primarily dealing with things, not
people”; and (6) he could not read instructions, write
reports, or perform math calculations. (Id.).
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform his past
relevant work as a construction laborer. (R. 27).
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded the Plaintiff was not
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of its review is
limited to determining (1) whether there is substantial
evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of
the Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
544 Fed.Appx. 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th
Cir. 2004)). A court gives deference to the factual findings
of the Commissioner, provided those findings are supported by
substantial evidence but applies close scrutiny to the legal
conclusions. See Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1996).
a court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th
Cir. 2004)). “The substantial evidence standard permits
administrative decision makers to act with considerable
latitude, and ‘the possibility of drawing two
inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent
an administrative agency's finding from being supported
by substantial evidence.'” Parker v.
Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J.,
dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar.
Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if a
court finds that the proof preponderates ...