United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDG
Gary Dawson appeals the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits. Based on the court's
review of the administrative record and the parties'
briefs, the court WILL REVERSE the
Commissioner's decision and WILL REMAND
for further administrative proceedings.
November 5, 2015, Mr. Dawson applied for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging that
his disability began on October 9, 2015.(R. 136). The
Commissioner initially denied his application and he
requested review by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id. at 66, 68, 73). After
holding a hearing (id. at 37-52), the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision (id. at 15-30). On August 13,
2018, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Dawson's request for
review of the unfavorable decision. (R. at 1). The
Commissioner's decision is now final and ripe for
judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The court “must determine
whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal
standards.” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation
marks omitted). “Where the ALJ denies benefits and the
Appeals Council denies review, [this court] review[s] the
ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final
decision.” Henry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
802 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and
the substantial evidence standard, this court will affirm the
ALJ's decision if there exists ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Henry, 802 F.3d at
1267 (quoting Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178). The court
may not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (quotation marks
omitted). The court must affirm “[e]ven if the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's findings.”
Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155,
1158-59 (11th Cir.2004) (quotation marks omitted).
the deferential standard for review of claims, the court must
“scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the
decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.” Henry, 802 F.3d at 1267 (quoting
MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053 (11th Cir.
1986)). The court must reverse the Commissioner's
decision if the ALJ does not apply the correct legal
standards. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143,
1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
determine whether an individual is disabled, an ALJ follows a
five-step sequential evaluation process. The ALJ considers:
(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified
impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment,
whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past
relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there
are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that
the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.
the ALJ determined that Mr. Dawson had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability
onset date of October 9, 2015. (R. at 20). He found that Mr.
Dawson had four severe impairments: chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease,
and obesity. (Id.). He also found that Mr. Dawson
had several non-severe impairments, including pain in his
hands, wrists, left elbow and left ankle, and chronic kidney
disease. (Id. at 20- 21). The ALJ concluded that Mr.
Dawson did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equalled the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at 21-23).
the ALJ determined that Mr. Dawson had the residual
functional capacity to perform a range of light work except
that he faced some additional limitations, including an
inability to climb ladders, rope, or scaffolds; an inability
to perform around hazards or in concentrated exposure to
extreme cold temperatures or high levels of humidity; a need
for a cane to walk over rough, uneven, or slippery surfaces;
and the ability to climb ramps or stairs only occasionally.
(R. 23). Based on that residual functional capacity, the ALJ
found that Mr. Dawson was unable to perform any past relevant
work. (R. 28). However, relying on testimony from a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that jobs existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Dawson
could perform, including marker/labeler, packer, and
assembler. (I ...