United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lauren Leath appeals the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying her claim for supplemental security
income benefits. Based on the court's review of the
administrative record and the parties' briefs, the court
WILL AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.
January 26, 2016, Ms. Leath applied for supplemental security
income benefits, alleging that her disability began on
November 30, 2015. (R. at 193). The Commissioner initially
denied her application and she requested review by an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.
at 116-30, 141-43). After holding a hearing (id. at
102-15), on June 1, 2018, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision (id. at 46-56), which Ms. Leath requested
that the Appeals Council review (id. at 19).
Leath submitted various new medical records to the Appeals
Council, including treatment notes from Ms. Leath's
primary care physician, Dr. Jane Teschner. (R. at 63-101;
see also R. at 2; Doc. 10 at 3). On March 28, 2019,
the Appeals Council denied Ms. Leath's request for
review, finding that the additional evidence did not show a
reasonable probability that it would change the outcome of
the decision. (R. at 1-5). The Commissioner's decision is
now final and ripe for judicial review. See 42
U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
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 Ms. Leath had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 13, 2016. (R. at
48). He found that Ms. Leath had the severe impairments of
borderline intellectual functioning and obsessive-compulsive
disorder, but that her “status post hernia repair and
removal of abdominal mass, ” ...