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Monroe v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

April 2, 2017

STEPHEN ROBERT MONROE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER, REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH M. TIMOTHY, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rules 72.1(A), 72.2(D) and 72.3 of this court relating to review of administrative determinations under the Social Security Act (“Act”) and related statutes, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. It is now before the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Act for review of a final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34.

         Upon 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.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 18, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, and in the application he alleged disability beginning July 15, 2002 (Tr. 16).[2] His application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and thereafter Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held on August 14, 2012, and on August 31, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision in which she found Plaintiff “not disabled, ” as defined under the Act, at any time through the date of her decision (Tr. 16-23). On May 29, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1). 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.

         II. FINDINGS OF THE ALJ

         On August 31, 2012, the ALJ made several findings relative to the issues raised in this appeal (Tr. 16-23):

1) Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on June 30, 2007.[3]
2) Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of July 15, 2002, through his date last insured of June 30, 2007.
3) Through the date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: recurrent folliculitis, arthritis, post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), hypertension, depression, obesity, and hepatitis.
4) Through the date last insured, 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, Appendix 1.
5) Through the date last insured, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light or sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). Plaintiff was limited to simple routine tasks involving no more than simple and short instructions; simple work-related decisions; little workplace changes; and occasional interaction with the general public, coworkers, and supervisors. Plaintiff was able to concentrate up to two hours at a time.
6) Through the date last insured, Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work.
7) Plaintiff was born on August 29, 1967, and was 39 years old, which is defined as a younger individual aged 18-49, on the date last insured.
8) Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English.
9) Transferability of job skills was not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supported a finding that Plaintiff was “not disabled, ” whether or not he had transferable job skills.
10) Through the date last insured, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could have performed.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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).

         The Act 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 his previous work, “but cannot, considering his 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 ...


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