United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
S. SNEED UNTIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Trina Marie Nieves, seeks judicial review of the denial of
her claims for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income. As the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision
was based on substantial evidence and employed proper legal
standards, the decision is affirmed.
filed applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income on June 22, 2012. (Tr. 20,
185-92.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims both
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 67-122, 124-34,
138-47.) Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing.
(Tr. 148-50.) Upon Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a
hearing at which Plaintiff appeared and testified. (Tr.
47-66.) Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly
denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 17-35.)
Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals
Council, which the Appeals Council denied. (Tr. 1-5, 14-16.)
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 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
who was born in 1971, claimed disability beginning on May 1,
2012. (Tr. 52, 67.) Plaintiff has a high school education and
a technical degree. (Tr. 29, 52.) Plaintiff's past
relevant work experience included work as a respiratory
therapist. (Tr. 28.) Plaintiff alleged disability due to
bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, and back pain. (Tr.
rendering the decision, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had
not performed substantial gainful activity since May 1, 2012,
the alleged onset date. (Tr. 22.) After conducting a hearing
and reviewing the evidence of record, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 22.)
Notwithstanding the noted impairments, the ALJ determined
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.
(Tr. 23.) The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff retained the
following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):
to lift and carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five
pounds frequently. She can stand or walk six hours per
eight-hour workday and sit six hours per workday, with
unlimited pushing and pulling. The claimant has no
manipulative, visual, communicative, postural or
environmental limitations. She has some limitations with
social functioning, but can respond appropriately to
supervision, adapt to a work setting, and interact
appropriately with coworkers, supervisors and the general
public. The claimant has some limitations with attention and
concentration which would limit pace and persistence
occasionally, but not at a level that would significantly
reduce productivity. She can hear, understand, learn,
remember and carry out detailed work instructions, make work
decisions, and can sustain attention/concentration sufficient
to complete an eight-hour workday and five-day work-week. The
claimant can use public transportation, be aware of common
hazards in the workplace, and take appropriate precautions.
(Tr. 25.) 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. 26.)
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC to
the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (“Grids”), Rule
203.29, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 29.)
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 (“Listing”); 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. § 416.920(g).
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 ...