United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
S. SNEED, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Priscilla Thomas, seeks judicial review of the denial of her
claims for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
benefits. As the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) decision did not employ proper legal
standards, the decision is reversed in part.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on May 19, 2014. (Tr.
209-18.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims both
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 69-120.) Plaintiff
then requested an administrative hearing. (Tr. 145-46.) Upon
Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which
Plaintiff appeared and testified. (Tr. 25-66.) Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and, accordingly, denied
Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 8-24.)
Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals
Council, which the Appeals Council denied. (Tr. 1-8, 67-68.)
Plaintiff then timely filed a complaint with this Court.
(Dkt. 1.) The case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
who was born in 1961 and has a high school education, claimed
disability beginning on January 15, 2014. (Tr. 34-35,
209-18.) Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
included work as a survey worker, telephone solicitor,
telephone answering service operator, personal recruiter, and
appointment clerk. (Tr. 17, 61-63.) Plaintiff has not
performed substantial gainful activity since January 15,
2014, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 13.) Plaintiff alleged
disability due to lower back pain, high blood pressure,
carpal tunnel syndrome, and depression. (Tr. 69, 121, 125.)
conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of record,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: problems with her cervical and lumbar spine,
hypertension, and obesity. (Tr. 13-14.) The ALJ determined
that Plaintiff's claimed impairments of depression,
history of alcohol abuse, and condition after a right wrist
fracture were non-severe. (Tr. 14.) The ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
then concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except
that, as a result of obesity and cervical and lumbar spine
problems, Plaintiff was limited to lifting twenty pounds
occasionally and lifting and carrying ten pounds frequently.
(Tr. 14.) The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff would
require a sit/stand option, sitting up to one hour at a time
and standing up to fifteen minutes at a time. (Tr. 14.)
Further, Plaintiff can sit and stand for a total of eight
hours a day. (Tr. 14.) In formulating Plaintiff's RFC,
the ALJ considered Plaintiff's subjective complaints and
determined that, although the evidence established the
presence of underlying impairments that reasonably could be
expected to produce the symptoms alleged, Plaintiff's
statements as to the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of her symptoms were not fully credible. (Tr. 17.)
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a survey
worker, telephone solicitor, telephone answering service
operator, customer service representative, service observer,
personnel recruiter, and appointment clerk. (Tr. 17-18.)
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr.
entitled to benefits, a claimant must be disabled, meaning
that the claimant must be unable to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result
in death or that 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A “physical
or mental impairment” is an impairment that results
from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities that are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).
Social Security Administration, in order to regularize the
adjudicative process, promulgated the detailed regulations
currently in effect. These regulations establish a
“sequential evaluation process” to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. If
an individual is found disabled at any point in the
sequential review, further inquiry is unnecessary. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a). Under this process, the ALJ must
determine, in sequence, the following: (1) whether the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment,
i.e., one that significantly limits the ability to perform
work-related functions; (3) whether the severe impairment
meets or equals the medical criteria of 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and, (4) whether the claimant can
perform his or her past relevant work. If the claimant cannot
perform the tasks required of his or her prior work, step
five of the evaluation requires the ALJ to decide if the
claimant can do other work in the national economy in view of
the claimant's age, education, and work experience. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a). A claimant is entitled to benefits
only if unable to perform other work. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
determination by the Commissioner that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if it is supported by substantial
evidence and comports with applicable legal standards.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197,
229 (1938)); Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1996). While the court reviews the
Commissioner's decision with deference to the ...