United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lynn Lockridge brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final adverse decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). After careful review, the court finds
that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) applied
the correct legal standards and that the ALJ's decision,
which has become the Commissioner's final decision, is
supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, the court
affirms the decision denying benefits.
worked as a cashier, assistant manager of a retail store, and
a materials handler or warehouse worker before she stopped
working at age 36 due to her alleged disability. R. 27,
120-21, 134. Thereafter, Lockridge filed applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income, alleging that she suffered from a disability
beginning September 1, 2015, due to chronic fatigue and back
problems. R. 146, 252, 234. After the SSA denied
Lockridge's applications, R. 164, 155, 170, she requested
a formal hearing, R. 42, 44, 175. Subsequently, an ALJ
entered a decision finding that Lockridge was not disabled.
R. 8-29. The Appeals Council denied Lockridge's request
for review, see R. 231, rendering the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner, R. 1. Having
exhausted her administrative remedies, Lockridge filed this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c)(3) and
405(g). Doc. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
only issues before this court are whether the record contains
substantial evidence to sustain the ALJ's decision,
see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Walden v.
Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, see
Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988);
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
1986). Title 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)
mandate that the Commissioner's “factual findings
are conclusive if supported by ‘substantial
evidence.'” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d
1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not
reconsider the facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Mitchell v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th
Cir. 2014) (citing Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1179 (11th Cir. 2011)). Instead,
the court must review the final decision as a whole and
determine if the decision is “‘reasonable and
supported by substantial evidence.'”
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (quoting Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).
evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a
preponderance of evidence. Id. “It means-and
means only-‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019)
(quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938)). If supported by substantial evidence, the
court must affirm the Commissioner's factual findings
even if the preponderance of the evidence is against those
findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. While
judicial review of the ALJ's findings is limited in
scope, it “does not yield automatic affirmance.”
Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.
contrast to the deferential review accorded the
Commissioner's factual findings, “conclusions of
law, including applicable review standards, are not presumed
valid” and are subject to de novo review.
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. The Commissioner's
failure to “apply the correct legal standards or to
provide the reviewing court with sufficient basis for a
determination that proper legal principles have been
followed” requires reversal. Id.
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show the
“inability 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(1). A physical
or mental impairment is “an impairment that results
from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrated by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a
five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a).
Specifically, the ALJ must determine in sequence:
(1) whether the claimant is currently unemployed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the impairment meets or equals one listed by the
(4) whether the claimant is unable to perform his or her past
work; and (5) whether the claimant is unable to perform any
work in the national economy.
See McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th
Cir. 1986). “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 disabled.'”
Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)-(f)).
“Once [a] finding is made that a claimant cannot return
to prior work the burden of proof shifts to the Secretary to
show other work the claimant can do.” Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995). However,
the claimant ultimately bears the burden of proving that she
is disabled, and, “consequently [s]he is responsible