United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Gainesville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Social Security case was referred to the undersigned upon
consent of the parties, ECF No. 8, by United States District
Judge Mark E. Walker. ECF No. 9. It is now before the Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the final
determination of the Acting Commissioner (Commissioner) of
the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's
application for a period of disability and Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act and Plaintiff's application for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) pursuant to Title XVI of the Act.
See ECF No. 1. After careful consideration of the
record, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.
Procedural History and Facts
8, 2013, Plaintiff Thomas Daniel O'Grady filed a Title II
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for
supplemental security income. Tr. 184-92. Both applications
alleged disability beginning March 7, 2009. Id. The
applications were based on neck injury and nerve damage, loss
of feeling in his right arm, double vision, constant
migraines, and poor circulation in his legs. Tr. 68. The
applications were initially denied on June 25, 2013, and
again on reconsideration on September 9, 2013. Tr. 123-34.
requested a hearing, which was held before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Stephen C. Calvarese by video conference on April
16, 2015. Tr. 30-64. Plaintiff appeared in Gainesville,
Florida, with counsel, Martin J. Goldberg. An impartial
vocational expert, Ronald J. Spitznagel, also testified.
Prior to the hearing, Plaintiff asked to amend the onset date
to October 27, 2012, Tr. 264, which was granted by the ALJ on
the day of the hearing. Tr. 33.
issued a decision on April 30, 2015, finding that Plaintiff
has not been under a disability as defined in the Social
Security Act. Tr. 14-24. Plaintiff's request for review
by the Appeals Council was denied on November 23, 2016. Tr.
1-6. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision
of the Acting Commissioner and is ripe for review.
Accordingly, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed this
complaint for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See ECF No.
Findings of the ALJ
made the following pertinent findings:
1. “The claimant meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31,
2014.” Tr. 16.
2. “The claimant has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since October 27, 2012, the alleged onset
date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).”
3. “The claimant has the following severe
impairments: disorder of the cervical spine, migraine
headaches, and poor near vision of 20/100 (20 CFR 404.1520(c)
and 416.920(c)).” Tr. 16. The ALJ found that the
Plaintiff also had several other non-severe impairments. Tr.
4. “The claimant does 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 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).” Tr.
5. “After careful consideration of the entire
record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claimant can lift and/or
carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The
claimant can stand for 6 hours, walk for 6 hours, and sit for
6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks. The claimant
can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He can
frequently climb ramps and stairs. The claimant has unlimited
balancing. He is able to perform frequent stooping; frequent
crawling; unlimited kneeling, and unlimited crouching. The
claimant is limited to frequent reaching overhead with both
arms. He is limited to frequent grasping, handling, and gross
manipulation with the right hand. The claimant needs to avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, humidity, vibration,
and hazards (including machinery and heights). The claimant
has poor near vision (20/100) and good far vision
(20/40).” Tr. 18.
6. “The claimant is unable to perform any past
relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).” Tr.
7. “The claimant was . . . 50 years old, which
is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age,
on the amended alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563
and 416.963).” Tr. 22.
8. “The claimant has at least a high school
education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR
404.1564 and 416.964).” Tr. 22. Plaintiff testified at
the hearing that he is a college graduate with a degree in
fine arts. Tr. 33-34.
9. “The claimant has acquired work skills from
past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).” Tr.
10. “Considering the claimant's age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,
the claimant has acquired work skills from past relevant work
that are not transferable to other occupations with jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy (20
CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 404.1568(d), 416.969(a), and
416.968(d)).” Tr. 22-23. The ALJ found based on the
vocational expert testimony that although Plaintiff cannot
perform a full range of light work, he could perform the
representative occupation of cleaner, housekeeping, DOT
#323.687-014, light unskilled, SVP 2, with 750, 000 jobs
available in the national economy. Tr. 23.
11. “The claimant has not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from
October 27, 2012, through the date of this decision (20 CFR
404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).”
on these findings, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not
disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social
Security Act and is not entitled to disability benefits. Tr.
24. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff is not disabled under
section 1614(a)A(3)(A) of the Social Security act and is thus not
entitled to supplemental security income. Id.
Legal Standards Guiding Judicial Review
Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision
is supported by substantial evidence in the record and
premised upon correct legal principles. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th
Cir. 1986). “Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted);
accord Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th
Cir. 2005). “The Commissioner's factual findings
are conclusive if supported by substantial
evidence.” Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). The Court
may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner,
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239, although the Court
must scrutinize the entire record, consider evidence
detracting from the evidence on which the Commissioner
relied, and determine the reasonableness of the factual
findings. Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837
(11th Cir. 1992); Parker v. Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177,
1180 (11th Cir. 1986). Review is deferential, but the
reviewing court conducts what has been referred to as
“an independent review of the record.” Flynn
v. Heckler, 768 F.2d 1273, 1273 (11th Cir. 1985).
disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment of
such severity that the claimant is not only unable to do past
relevant work, “but cannot, considering his age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). A disability
is an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A); see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509
(duration requirement). Both the “impairment” and
the “inability” must be expected to last not less
than 12 months. Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212
(2002). In addition, an individual is entitled to disability
insurance benefits if he or she is under a disability prior
to the expiration of her insured status. See 42
U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(A); Moore, 405 F.3d at 1211;
Torres v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
845 F.2d 1136, 1137-38 (1 st Cir. 1988); Cruz Rivera v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 818 F.2d 96, 97
(1st Cir. 1986).
to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v),  the Commissioner
analyzes a claim in five steps:
1. Is the individual currently engaged in substantial gainful