United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
ELIZABETH M. TIMOTHY, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge
for disposition pursuant to the authority of 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, based on the parties' consent
to magistrate judge jurisdiction (see ECF Nos. 10,
11). It is now before the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) of the Social Security Act (“the Act”),
for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401-34.
review of the record before this court, it is the opinion of
the undersigned that the findings of fact and determinations
of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence;
thus, the decision of the Commissioner should be affirmed.
August 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, and
in the application she alleged disability beginning February
22, 2013, but later amended the alleged onset date to January
22, 2013 (tr. 24). Her application was denied initially and
on reconsideration, and thereafter she requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A
hearing was held on May 29, 2015, and on June 8, 2015, the
ALJ issued a decision in which he found Plaintiff “not
disabled, ” as defined under the Act, at any time
through the date of his decision (tr. 24-37). The Appeals
Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for
review. Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner, subject to review in this
court. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496
F.3d 1253, 1262 (11th Cir. 2007). This appeal followed.
FINDINGS OF THE ALJ
denying Plaintiff's claims, the ALJ made the following
relevant findings (see tr. 24-37):
(a) Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the
Act through September 30, 2018;
(b) Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since January 22, 2013, the amended onset date;
(c) Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar
degenerative disc disease, status post discectomy and
laminectomy; lumbar spondylolisthesis; cervical spondylosis;
cervical degenerative disc disease; headaches; mild carpal
tunnel syndrome; diabetes mellitus; intrinsic asthma;
hypertension; and obesity;
(d) Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, subpart P,
(e) Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) except
that she could occasionally use her hands to push and pull
arm controls and frequently use her hands to simple grasp and
fine manipulate. She could occasionally use her feet to push
and pull leg controls. She could never climb ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds and could occasionally stoop, crouch, kneel,
crawl, climb stairs and ramps, balance, and reach overhead.
She could never drive automotive equipment requiring use of a
clutch and could occasionally work around unprotected
heights, moving machinery, and marked changes in temperature
and humidity. She experienced a moderate degree of pain,
which occasionally interfered with concentration,
persistence, or pace but did not require her to abandon her
work or workstation. This was not a continuous concept and
(f) Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant
work as a retail cashier/stocker as generally performed in
the national economy and defined in the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles but not as performed by Plaintiff. This
work did not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by Plaintiff's residual functional
(g) Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in
the Act, from January 22, 2013, through June 8, 2015, the
date of the ALJ's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence from the record and was a result of the application
of proper legal standards. Carnes v. Sullivan, 936
F.2d 1215, 1218 (11th Cir. 1991) (“[T]his Court may
reverse the decision of the [Commissioner] only when
convinced that it is not supported by substantial evidence or
that proper legal standards were not applied.”);
see also Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439
(11th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999
(11th Cir. 1987). “A determination that is supported by
substantial evidence may be meaningless . . . if it is
coupled with or derived from faulty legal principles.”
Boyd v. Heckler, 704 F.2d 1207, 1209 (11th Cir.
1983), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated
in Elam v. R.R. Ret. Bd., 921 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir.
1991). As long as proper legal standards were applied, the
Commissioner's decision will not be disturbed if in light
of the record as a whole the decision appears to be supported
by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Falge
v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir. 1998);
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1439; Foote v. Chater,
67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995). Substantial evidence is
more than a scintilla, but not a preponderance; it is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct.
1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 59 S.Ct. 206, 217, 83
L.Ed. 126 (1938)); Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1439. The
court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
1990) (citations omitted). Even if the evidence preponderates
against the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be
affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. Sewell v.
Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986).
defines a disability as an “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 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To qualify as a
disability the physical or mental impairment must be so
severe that the claimant is not only unable to do her
previous work, “but cannot, considering [her] age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.” Id. § 423(d)(2)(A). Pursuant to
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(g), the Commissioner analyzes a
disability claim in five steps:
the claimant is performing substantial gainful activity, she
is not disabled.
the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity,
her impairments must be severe before she can be found
the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity
and she has severe impairments that have lasted or are
expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve
months, and if her impairments meet or medically equal the
criteria of any impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1, the claimant is presumed disabled
without further inquiry.
the claimant's impairments do not prevent her from doing
her past relevant work, she is not disabled.
if the claimant's impairments prevent her from performing
her past relevant work, if other work exists in significant
numbers in the national economy that ...