United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
B. SMITH United States Magistrate Judge.
Carl Pratt appeals to this Court from Defendant the
Commissioner of Social Security's final decision to deny
his application for disability insurance benefits. After due
consideration, the Commissioner's final decision is
time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was forty-one
years old. He holds a master's degree in management and
has past work experience as a traffic clerk, demonstrator,
election clerk, financial aid counselor, and radio dispatcher
(Tr. 24, 37). On April 17, 2015, Plaintiff applied for
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 423, and alleged a disability onset date of February
26, 2015 (Tr. 14, 26). His claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration (Tr. 82-108). At Plaintiff's
request, a hearing was held on August 3, 2016 before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 33- 81).
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 16, 2016
(Tr. 12-26). On October 14, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's petition for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. 1-4). Accordingly, the ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision and this appeal timely
followed (Doc. 1). Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative
remedies and his case is ripe for review.
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ must
follow the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation
process set out in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). The
evaluation process requires the ALJ to 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 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.
Id., at 1241 n.10; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987).
determined at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his February 26, 2015
application date (Tr. 14). At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff severely impaired by lumbar and cervical
degenerative disc disease, headaches, right index finger
laceration, depression, anxiety disorder, affective disorder,
gastroesophageal reflux disease, and arthritis (Id.
at 14-16). At step three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20
CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526) (Tr. 14-16). Before
proceeding to step four, the ALJ decided that Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to,
[P]erform less than the full range of sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a), which is unskilled. The
claimant cannot perform production-rate work. The claimant
can tolerate occasional changes in the routine work setting.
The claimant is able to sit for two hours at a time, but then
will need to stand or walk for no more than five minutes
before resuming a seated position. The claimant can
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, but can never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can
occasionally climb ramps or stairs. The claimant should avoid
exposure to hazards, such as heights or machinery with moving
parts. The claimant can frequently handle and finger with the
right upper extremity.
(Tr. 16-24). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to
perform past relevant work (Tr. 24). But, the ALJ ultimately
concluded at step five that there are jobs in the national
economy-like addresser, call out operator, and charge account
clerk-that Plaintiff could perform and therefore, he was not
disabled (Tr. 24-25).
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). 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 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) (citation omitted).
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 curiam); accord Lowery v.
Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (the court
must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the factual findings).
The ALJ Failed to Adequately Explain His Assessment of