United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RUSS WALKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
August 16, 2015, Plaintiff Jonathan Faircloth filed an
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, alleging that he became disabled on August 16, 2015. The
application was denied at the initial administrative level.
Plaintiff then requested and received a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision dated May 26,
2017. Plaintiff appealed that decision and the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 7,
2018. The ALJ's decision consequently became the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. See
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986).
The case is now before the court for review of that decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule 73 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties have consented to the
conduct of all proceedings and entry of a final judgment by
the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. See
Docs. 9, 10. Based on review of the parties' submissions,
the relevant law, and the record as a whole, the court will
affirm the Commissioner's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW AND REGULATORY
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is a
limited one. This court must find the Commissioner's
decision conclusive if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel,
129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla, ” but less than a
preponderance, “and is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Even
if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings, [a reviewing court] must affirm if the decision
reached is supported by substantial evidence”)
(citations omitted). The court will reverse the
Commissioner's decision if it is convinced that the
decision was not supported by substantial evidence or that
the proper legal standards were not applied. Carnes v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1215, 1218 (11th Cir. 1991). However,
reversal is not warranted even if the court itself would have
reached a result contrary to that of the factfinder. See
Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir.
1991). A reviewing court may not look only to those parts of
the record which support the decision of the ALJ, but instead
must view the record in its entirety and take account of
evidence which detracts from the evidence relied on by the
ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th
[The court must] . . . scrutinize the record in its entirety
to determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner's] .
. . factual findings. . . . No. similar presumption of
validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] . . . legal
conclusions, including determination of the proper standards
to be applied in evaluating claims.
Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a person must be
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
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To make this determination, the
Commissioner employs a five-step, sequential evaluation
process. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920.
(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 [the Listing of Impairments]?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
economy? 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
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
burden of proof rests on the claimant through Step Four.
See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-1239
(11th Cir. 2004); see also Ellison v. Barnhart, 355
F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003). A claimant establishes a
prima facie case of qualifying disability once he or
she has carried the burden of proof from Step One through
Step Four. At Step Five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner, who must then show that there are a significant
number of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can
perform the fourth and fifth steps, the ALJ must determine
the claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). Phillips, 357 F.3d at
1238-1239. The RFC is what the claimant is still able to do
despite the claimant's impairments and is based on all
relevant medical and other evidence. Id. It may
contain both exertional and nonexertional limitations.
Id. at 1242-1243. At the fifth step, the ALJ
considers the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work
experience to determine if there are jobs available in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. Id.
at 1239. To do this, the ALJ can use either the Medical
Vocational Guidelines (“grids”), see 20
C.F.R. pt. 404 subpt. P, app. 2, or call a vocational expert
(“VE”). Id. at 1239-1240.
grids allow the ALJ to consider factors such as age,
confinement to sedentary or light work, inability to speak
English, educational deficiencies, and lack of job
experience. Each factor can independently limit the number of
jobs realistically available to an individual. Id.
1240. Combinations of these factors yield a
statutorily-required finding of “Disabled” or
“Not Disabled.” Id.
was 20 years old at the time he filed his application for
benefits and was twenty-two years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision. R. 39, 245. He completed the eleventh
grade and lives alone in a three-bedroom home. R. 115-116.
Plaintiff testified that he has never had a job and that his
mother helps him pay bills. R. 116-117.
the administrative hearing, and employing the five-step
process, the ALJ found at Step One that Plaintiff “has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 16,
2015, the application date[.]” R. 24. At Step Two, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe
impairments: “Crohn's Disease/Inflammatory Bowel
Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Chronic Kidney Disease,
Borderline Intellectual Functioning, Affective Disorder,
Anxiety Disorder, and Hypertension[.]” Id. At
Step Three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “does not have
an impairment or combination ...