United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
B. SMITH, United States Magistrate Judge
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review
of a final decision of Defendant the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration denying her claims for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental security income under the Act. Upon a review of
the record, and after due consideration, the
Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.
filed for benefits on August 3, 2012, alleging an onset date
of May 26, 2012 (Tr. 20). She claimed disability due to
spinal stenosis, depression, tendonitis, numbness on lips,
face, arms and legs, severe pain, and muscle spasm (Tr. 263).
When she made her applications, Plaintiff was a
“younger individual age 45-49” (Tr. 27). On
October 16, 2014, her age category changed to an individual
closely approaching advanced age (Tr. 27). She has a high
school education, almost two years of college (Tr. 40, 386)
and a past work history as a hearing aid inspector, printing
inspector, and label inspector (Tr. 62).
applications were denied initially and on reconsideration,
and she requested and received a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 20). In a
partially favorable decision dated February 25, 2015, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled prior to October 16, 2014 (her
50th birthday), but the ALJ decided that Plaintiff became
disabled on her birthday and continued to be disabled through
the date of the decision (Tr. 20-29). The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 20, 2016
(Tr. 1). Consequently, the ALJ's February 25, 2015
decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. Having
exhausted the available administrative remedies, Plaintiff
filed this action for judicial review (Doc. 1). The matter is
fully briefed and ripe for resolution.
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ must
follow the five-step sequential evaluation process
established by the Social Security Administration and set
forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and
416.920(a)(4). Specifically, the ALJ must determine whether
the claimant (1) is currently employed; (2) has a severe
impairment; (3) has an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment
listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) can
perform past relevant work; and (5) retains the ability to
perform any work in the national economy. See Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-1240 (11th Cir. 2004). The
claimant bears the burden of persuasion through step four
and, at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987);
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241 n.10.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date
(Tr. 22). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine, depression, anxiety, osteoarthritis of the
bilateral knees, and obesity (20 CFR 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (Tr. 23). Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except she can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.
The claimant could occasionally balance, stoop, crouch,
crawl, and kneel, but she should avoid exposure to extreme
cold, heat, humid, vibration, fumes, odors, dust, gases, and
poor ventilation. Additionally, she should avoid working at
unprotected heights and near dangerous machinery. The
claimant could perform simple repetitive 1-3 step tasks with
occasional changes in the work setting and she must elevate
her legs to 1 foot, 25% of the workday.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to return
to her past relevant work (Tr. 27). Then, considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC and
relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ
concluded that, prior to October 16, 2014, there were jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy,
including touch up inspector, final assembler, and bonder,
that Plaintiff could have performed (Tr. 28). The ALJ also
found that, beginning on October 16, 2014, there were no jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff could perform (Id.). Therefore, the
ALJ held that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to October 16,
2014, but she became disabled on that date and has continued
to be disabled through the date of the decision (Tr. 28). The
ALJ further determined that Plaintiff was not under a
disability at any time through December 31, 2013, her date
last insured (Tr. 29).
scope of the Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363
F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). Findings of fact are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant
evidence that a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Winschel v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011)
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 preponderance of the
evidence is against the Commissioner's decision.
Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir.
1996). The district court “may not decide facts anew,
reweigh the evidence, or substitute our judgment for that of
the [Commissioner.]” Id. "The district
court must view the record as a whole, taking into account
evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the
decision." Foote v. Chater,67 F.3d 1553, 1560
(11th Cir. 1995) (per ...