United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
27, 2015, the claimant, Frank Wilson, applied for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits under Title XVI
of the Social Security Act. (R. 10). In his application, the
claimant alleged disability beginning on May 15, 2015 because
of chronic back pain. (R. 10). The Commissioner denied the
claim on August 14, 2015. (R. 10). The claimant filed a
timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge and the ALJ held a hearing on April 13, 2017. (R. 10).
decision dated October 6, 2017, the ALJ found that the
claimant was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act and was thus ineligible for social security disability
benefits. (R. 7). On November 1, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied the claimant's request for review. (R. 23).
Consequently, the Commissioner's decision became final.
The claimant has exhausted his administrative remedies, and
the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons stated below, the
court will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.
claimant presents one issue for review: whether the ALJ
failed to properly evaluate the credibility of the
plaintiff's complaints of pain consistent with the
Eleventh Circuit's pain standard.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner's decision is
limited. The court must affirm the Commissioner's
decision if he applied the correct legal standards and if
substantial evidence supports his factual conclusions.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v.
Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker
v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
. . . presumption of validity attaches to the
[Commissioner's] legal conclusions, including
determination of the proper standards to be applied in
evaluating claims.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999.
The court does not review the Commissioner's factual
determinations de novo. The court will affirm those
factual determinations that are supported by substantial
evidence. “Substantial evidence” is “more
than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 402 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant's RFC, and the application of vocational factors
“are not medical opinions, . . . but are, instead,
opinions on issues reserved to the Commissioner because they
are administrative findings that are dispositive of a case;
i.e., that would direct the determination or decision of
disability.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d),
416.927(d). Whether the claimant meets the listing and is
qualified for social security disability benefits is a
question reserved for the ALJ, and the court “may not
decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its]
judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus,
even if the court were to disagree with the ALJ about the
significance of certain facts, the court has no power to
reverse that finding as long as substantial evidence in the
record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [ALJ]'s factual
findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the ALJ's decision, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence
that detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th Cir.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to social
security disability benefits when he is unable 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 12 months . . . .” To determine whether a
claimant meets the § 423(d)(1)(A) criteria, the
Commissioner employs a five-step, sequential evaluation
(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, subpart
P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads
either to the next question, or, on step three and five, to a
finding of disability. A negative answer to any question,
other than step three, leads to a determination of “not
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
Eleventh Circuit has established a three-part “pain
standard” that an ALJ must apply “when a claimant
attempts to establish disability through his or her own
testimony of pain or other subjective symptoms.”
Holt v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1221, 1223 (11th Cir.
1991). “The pain standard requires (1) evidence of an
underlying medical condition and either (2) objective medical
evidence that confirms the severity of the alleged pain
arising from that condition or (3) that the objectively
determined medical condition is of such a severity that it
can be reasonably expected to give rise to the alleged
pain.” Id. Evidence that satisfies the pain
standard “is itself sufficient to support a finding of
pain standard requires more than a “single, conclusory
statement” of the weight the ALJ gave the
claimant's reported symptoms or a recitation of
“the factors described in the regulations for
evaluating symptoms.” SSR 16-3p. Rather, if an ALJ
finds that the claimant's complaints do not meet the pain
standard and rejects the subjective testimony, the ALJ must
“articulate explicit and adequate reasons” for
doing so. Holt, 921 F.2d at 1223. And “[a]
clearly articulated credibility finding with substantial