United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
B. SMITH, United States Magistrate Judge.
Donnie Ray Lane appeals to this Court from Defendant, the
Commissioner of Social Security's final decision to deny
his applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income. I have reviewed the record,
including the administrative law judge's
(“ALJ”) decision, the exhibits, and the joint
memorandum submitted by the parties. For the following
reasons, I respectfully recommend that the Commissioner's
final decision be affirmed, pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-two
years old (Tr. 40-41). He had a general education diploma and
past work experience as a donut baker and dough mixer
(Id.; Tr. 57). On March 8, 2013, Plaintiff applied
for benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 416, 423, alleging a
disability onset date of October 18, 2012 (Tr. 17, 203-216).
His claims were denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr.
132-142, 146-150). At Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a
hearing on April 8, 2015 (Tr. 37-62). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on May 18, 2015 (Tr. 12-36). Plaintiff
asked the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision
and on October 14, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the
request for review (Tr. 3-10). 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 which appears in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). 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 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 October 18, 2012
alleged onset date (Tr. 17). At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff was severely impaired by: hypertension and
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine
(Id.). 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 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (20 CFR
§§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d),
416.925 and 416.926) (Tr. 17-18). 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 light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). Specifically, the
claimant can sit, stand and walk six hours in an eight-hour
workday, and he can lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently. The claimant would require work which is simple
and unskilled, or very low semi-skilled in nature, which are
tasks performed so frequently as to be considered routine,
even though the tasks themselves might not be considered
simple. The claimant needs to avoid frequent ascending and
descending stairs. The claimant should avoid frequent pushing
and pulling motions with his lower extremities within the
aforementioned weight restrictions. Due to mild to moderate
pain and medication side effects, the claimant should avoid
hazards in the work place such as unprotected areas of moving
machinery; heights; ramps; ladders; scaffolding; and on the
ground, unprotected areas of holes and pits. The claimant
could perform each of the following postural activities
occasionally: balancing, stooping, couching, kneeling and
crawling, but not climbing of ropes or scaffolds and ladders
exceeding 6 feet. The claimant has non-exertional mental
limitations which frequently affect his ability to
concentrate upon complex or detailed tasks, but he would
remain capable of understanding, remembering and carrying out
job instructions as defined earlier; making work related
judgments and decisions; responding appropriately to
supervision, co-workers and work situations; and dealing with
changes in a routine work setting.
(Tr. 19-27). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to
perform past relevant work (Tr. 27). But, the ALJ ultimately
concluded at step five that there were jobs in the national
economy-like cafeteria attendant, luncheon room attendant,
and advertising material distributor-that Plaintiff could
perform and therefore, he was not disabled (Tr. 27-28).
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).
Plaintiff's RFC Assessment was Based on ...