United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c), plaintiff Joseph Li Gary
Stevenson seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner
denied Mr. Stevenson's claim for a period of disability
and supplemental security income. After careful review, the
Court reverses and remands the Commissioner's decision.
Stevenson applied for a period of disability and supplemental
security income on February 24, 2015. (Doc. 7-4, p. 29). Mr.
Stevenson alleges that his disability began September 23,
2012. (Doc. 7-6, p. 2). The Commissioner initially denied Mr.
Stevenson's claim on April 14, 2015. (Doc. 7-4, pp. 23;
17-28). Mr. Stevenson requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 7-5, pp. 12-14). The
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 14, 2017. (Doc.
7-3, pp. 12-28). On November 27, 2017, the Appeals Council
declined Mr. Stevenson's request for review (Doc. 7-3,
pp. 2-7), making the Commissioner's decision final for
this Court's appellate review. See 42 U.S.C.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in
this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council
denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the
ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and
[his] ‘legal conclusions with close
scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in
the record to support the ALJ's factual findings.
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla 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). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may
not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d
1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).
respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ
failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that
the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court
must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
determine whether a claimant has proven that he is disabled,
an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The
(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.
case, the ALJ found that Mr. Stevenson has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 24, 2015, the
application date. (Doc. 7-3, p. 17).The ALJ determined that Mr.
Stevenson suffers from the severe impairment of paranoid
schizophrenia. (Doc. 7-3, p. 17). Based on a review of the
medical evidence, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Stevenson does
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals the severity of any of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Doc. 7-3, p. 19).
light of Mr. Stevenson's impairment, the ALJ evaluated
Mr. Stevenson's residual functional capacity. The ALJ
determined that Mr. Stevenson has the RFC to perform:
a full range of work at all exertional levels but the
following non-exertional limitations: no climbing of ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; no work around unprotected heights or
hazardous machinery; limited to unskilled work with the
ability to make simple work related decisions with few work
place changes; can attend and concentrate for two-hour
periods; work must be goal oriented, with no production paced
or assembly line production requirement; must have no direct
interaction with the general public; work must not require
teamwork or coordination with others; and can work around
coworkers, but must have no more than occasional interaction
(Doc. 7-3, p. 20).
found that Mr. Stevenson has no past relevant work. (Doc.
7-3, p. 22). Based on this RFC and relying on testimony from
a vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in the
national economy that Mr. Stevenson can perform, including a
laundry worker, folder, and marker. (Doc. 7-3, pp. 23-24).
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Mr. Stevenson ...