United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
C. IRICK UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Fredrick Schlegel (Claimant) appeals to the District Court
from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying his applications for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income benefits. Doc. 1; R. 1-7,
253-76. Claimant argued that the Administrative Law Judge
(the ALJ) erred by: 1) failing “to apply the correct
legal standards at step four of the sequential evaluation
process when he found that [Claimant] could perform his past
work”; and 2) failing “to apply the correct legal
standards to Mr. Schlegel's pancreatitis limitations and
psychotic limitations at step four.” Doc. 20 at 2. For
the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's final
decision is AFFIRMED.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
September 2012, Claimant filed applications for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits.
R. 268-76. Claimant originally alleged a disability onset
date of October 1, 2007, but later amended his alleged onset
date to April 11, 2011. R. 47-48, 268, 271, 289.
issued his decision on March 19, 2015. R. 13-21. In his
decision, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following
severe impairments: diabetes mellitus type 2 and
hyperlipidemia. R. 15. The ALJ found that Claimant had a
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work as
defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and
416.967(c). R. 17. Specifically, the ALJ found as
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
the full range of medium work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). This individual has the residual
functional capacity to perform work at the medium exertional
level. He can lift, carry, push and pull fifty (50) pounds
occasionally and twenty-five (25) pounds frequently. He can
stand and walk for approximately six (6) hours and can sit
for approximately six (6) hours in an eight (8) hour workday
with normal breaks. He must avoid exposure to vibration,
unprotected heights, and hazardous machinery. He must avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme heat, cold, wetness,
humidity, and irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, and
gases. His work is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks. This person should have no interaction with the
general public and only occasional interaction with
co-workers and supervisors.
R. 17. The ALJ posed a hypothetical question to the
vocational expert (VE) that was consistent with the foregoing
RFC determination, and the VE testified that Claimant was
capable of performing his past relevant work as a kitchen
helper. R. 49. The ALJ thus found that Claimant was capable
of performing his past relevant work as a kitchen helper. R.
20. Therefore, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled
between the alleged onset date and the date of his decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Social Security appeals, [the court] must determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is ‘supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal
standards.'” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). 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) and
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Where 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 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.
The District Court “‘may not decide the facts
anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for
that of the [Commissioner].'” Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239
(11th Cir. 1983)).
Past Relevant Work
four of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ assesses
the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
ability to perform past relevant work. Phillips, 357
F.3d at 1238. A claimant is not disabled if the claimant is
capable of performing his past relevant work, which is
defined as work performed within the last fifteen years that
lasted long enough for the claimant to learn the work and
that was substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1560(b)(1), 416.920(a)(4)(iv),
416.960(b)(1); see also Eyre v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 586 Fed.Appx. 521, 523-24 (11th Cir. 2014) (per
curiam). The claimant bears the burden of demonstrating that
prior work experience was not “past relevant
work.” Eyre, 586 Fed.Appx. at 524;
Barnes, 932 F.2d at 1359.
gainful activity is defined as “work activity that is
both substantial and gainful.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1572, 416.972; see also Eyre, 586 Fed.Appx. at
524. Work activity is substantial if it “involves doing
significant physical or mental activities, ” and is
gainful if it is done “for pay or profit.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1572, 416.972; see also
Eyre, 586 Fed.Appx. at 524. The chief consideration in
determining whether prior work was substantial gainful
activity is what the claimant earned doing that prior work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1574(a)(1), 416.974(a)(1); see
also Eyre, 586 Fed.Appx. at 524. “The ALJ
ordinarily will consider that the claimant either was or was
not engaged in substantial gainful activity if her average
monthly earnings are above or below a certain amount
established by the Social Security Administration's
earnings guidelines.” Eyre, 586 Fed.Appx. at
524 (citations omitted). However, the amount that a claimant
earned doing the prior work is not dispositive if other
evidence indicates that the claimant was engaged in
substantial gainful activity. Id. (“the ALJ
can consider other information, including whether the work
performed was ‘comparable to that of unimpaired ...