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 by United States District Judge Mark
E. Walker. ECF No. 16, 17. 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 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pursuant
to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See ECF No.
1. After careful consideration of the record, the decision of
the Commissioner is affirmed.
Procedural History and Facts
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on December 31, 2012, alleging a disability beginning on
September 7, 2010. Tr. 37, 165-71. The application was denied
initially on March 22, 2013, Tr. 119-24, and again on
reconsideration on July 3, 2013. Tr. 130-34. A hearing was
requested and a video hearing was held on February 18, 2015,
before administrative law judge (ALJ) William H. Greer at
which Plaintiff appeared pro se. Tr. 54-69. Although informed
of her right to representation, Plaintiff chose to appear and
testify without the assistance of counsel or other
representative. Tr. 163. Impartial vocational expert Jackson
C. McKay also testified. Tr. 66-68.
18, 2015, a decision was entered denying Plaintiff's
application. Tr. 37-48. Plaintiff sought review in the
Appeals Council, which denied review on March 17, 2017. Tr.
1-4. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision
of the Acting Commissioner and is ripe for review.
Accordingly, Plaintiff, appearing pro se, filed this
complaint for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381, et seq., and 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). See ECF No. 1.
decision issued on May 18, 2015, the ALJ made findings
pertinent to this review:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 31, 2012, the application date. Tr.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
headaches, vertigo, left carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative
disc/joint disease of the cervical spine, an anxiety
disorder, and an affective disorder. Tr. 39.
3. 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. Tr. 40.
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 CFR 416.967(a) except with no work around unprotected
heights, no work around moving and hazardous machinery, or
driving motorized vehicles. The claimant can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant is limited to no
more than semi-skilled work. Tr. 41.
5. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a customer service representative. This work does not
require the performance of work-related activities precluded
by the claimant's residual functional capacity. Tr. 47.
6. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since December 31, 2012, the date
the application was filed. Tr. 48.
on these findings, and the reasons set forth in the decision,
the ALJ found Plaintiff is not disabled under section
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Tr. 48.
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. § 416.909 (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
Commissioner analyzes a claim in five steps, pursuant to 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v):
1. Is the individual currently engaged in substantial gainful
2. Does the individual have any severe impairments?
3. Does the individual have any severe impairments that meet
or equal those listed in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
4. Does the individual have the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work despite limitations and are there any
impairments which prevent past relevant work?
5. Do the individual's impairments prevent other work?
positive finding at step one or a negative finding at step
two results in disapproval of the application for benefits. A
positive finding at step three results in approval of the
application for benefits. At step four, the claimant bears
the burden of establishing a severe impairment that precludes
the performance of past relevant work. Consideration is given
to the assessment of the claimant's RFC and the
claimant's past relevant work. If the claimant can still
do past relevant work, there will be a finding that the
claimant is not disabled. If the claimant carries this
burden, however, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at
step five to establish that despite the claimant's
impairments, the claimant is able to perform other work
available in significant numbers in the national economy in
light of the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work
experience. See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1237 (11th Cir. 2004); Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d
1224, 1228-29 (11th Cir. 1999); Chester, 792 F.2d at
131; MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 ...