United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MCCOY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Marena Hernandez's Complaint (Doc.
1) filed on March 31, 2016. Plaintiff seeks judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim
for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits,
and supplemental security income. The Commissioner filed the
Transcript of the proceedings (hereinafter referred to as
“Tr.” followed by the appropriate page number),
and the parties filed legal memoranda in support of their
positions. For the reasons set out herein, the decision of
the Commissioner is REVERSED AND REMANDED
pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility, the ALJ Decision, and
Standard of Review
law defines disability as the inability to do 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.
§§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be
severe, making the claimant unable to do her previous work or
any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 - 404.1511,
416.905 - 416.911. Plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion
through step four, while the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
April 4, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and on April 5, 2012,
Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security
income (“SSI”). (Tr. at 153, 154, 302-319).
Plaintiff asserted an onset date of April 14, 2010.
(Id. at 302, 310). Plaintiff's applications were
denied initially on June 20, 2012, and on reconsideration on
September 7, 2012. (Id. at 175, 176). A hearing was
held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Dores D. McDonnell, Sr. on April 29, 2014. (Id. at
91-114). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 8,
2014. (Id. at 70-78). The ALJ found Plaintiff not to
be under a disability from April 14, 2010, through the date
of the decision. (Id. at 78).
January 27, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Id. at 1-7). Plaintiff filed a
Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on
March 31, 2016. This case is ripe for review. The parties
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge
for all proceedings. (See Doc. 13).
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if a claimant has proven that she is disabled.
Packer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 542 F. App'x
890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)). An ALJ must
determine whether the claimant: (1) is performing substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has a
severe impairment that meets or equals an impairment
specifically listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1; (4) can perform her past relevant work; and (5)
can perform other work of the sort found in the national
economy. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1237-40 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant has the burden of
proof through step four and then the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Hines-Sharp v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 511 F. App'x 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir.
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through June 30, 2016. (Tr. at 72). At step one of the
sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 14, 2010,
the alleged onset date. (Id.). At step two, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairment of
hypertension (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and
416.920(c)). (Id.). At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
(Id. at 74). At step four, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform medium work, finding she
“can lift and/or carry 25 pounds frequently and 50
pounds occasionally and stand, walk, or sit for 6 hours each
in an 8-hour workday. (Id. at 75). The claimant has
no limitations in pushing/pulling with hand or foot controls.
(Id.). She further experiences no manipulative,
visual, communicative, postural, or environmental
limitations.” (Id.). The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as
a driver, laundry aid, and cashier and dishwasher in a
restaurant. (Id. at 78). The ALJ determined that
this work does not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by Plaintiff's RFC. (Id.).
The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability
from April 14, 2010, through the date of the decision.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the findings are supported by substantial
evidence, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971). The Commissioner's findings of fact are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§405(g). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla-i.e., the evidence must do more than
merely create a suspicion of the existence of a fact, and
must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support the conclusion. Foote
v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing
Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir.
1982); Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401).
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, the district court will affirm, even if the
reviewer would have reached a contrary result as finder of
fact, and even if the reviewer finds that “the evidence
preponderates against” the Commissioner's decision.
Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th
Cir. 1991); Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358
(11th Cir. 1991). The district court must view the evidence
as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the decision. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1560;
accord Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th
Cir. 1992) (court must scrutinize the entire record to
determine reasonableness of factual findings).