United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Kimberly A. Warriner's Complaint
(Doc. 1) filed on January 13, 2017. Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying
her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits. The Commissioner filed the Transcript of the
proceedings (hereinafter referred to as “Tr.”
followed by the appropriate page number), and the parties
filed legal memoranda in support of their positions. For the
reasons set out herein, the decision of the Commissioner is
REVERSED AND REMANDED pursuant to §
205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility, the ALJ Decision, and
Standard of Review
defines disability as the inability to do any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result
in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be
severe, making the claimant unable to do her previous work or
any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 - 404.1511,
416.905 - 416.911. Plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion
through step four, while the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
January 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits. (Tr. at 129, 190-97).
Plaintiff asserted an onset date of December 21, 2012.
(Id. at 190). Plaintiff's application was denied
initially on April 25, 2013 and on reconsideration on June 3,
2013. (Id. at 105, 129). A hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) T. Whitaker on
May 14, 2015. (Id. at 62-103). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on July 20, 2015. (Id. at
12-25). The ALJ found Plaintiff not to be under a disability
from December 21, 2012, through the date of the decision.
(Id. at 25).
December 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Id. at 1-5). Plaintiff filed a
Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on
January 13, 2017. This case is ripe for review. The parties
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge
for all proceedings. (See Doc. 16).
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if a claimant has proven that she is disabled.
Packer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 542 Fed.Appx.
890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)). An ALJ must
determine whether the claimant: (1) is performing substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has a
severe impairment that meets or equals an impairment
specifically listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1; (4) can perform her past relevant work; and (5)
can perform other work of the sort found in the national
economy. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1237-40 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant has the burden of
proof through step four and then the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Hines-Sharp v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 511 Fed.Appx. 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir. 2013).
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2017. (Tr. at 14). At step one of the
sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 21,
2012, the alleged onset date. (Id.). At step two,
the ALJ determined that:
[Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments:]
back pain, intrascapular numbness, and right anterio thigh
numbness status post scoliosis surgery fusion and rod
placement; dextroscoliosis and stenosis of thoracic spine;
cervical degenerative disc disease; spondylolisthesis, facet
hypertrophy, spondyloysis, levoscoliosis, facet
anterolisthesis, and stenosis of lumbar spine with chronic
low back pain syndrome and radiculopathy; history of left
knee radiculopathy; foot drop; recurrent sacroiliitis;
degenerative joint disease and recurrent trochanteric
bursitis of right hip; obesity; depressive disorder; bipolar
syndrome; anxiety; panic disorder; and history of bereavement
(20 [C.F.R. §] 404.1520(c)).
(Id.). At step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P,
app. 1 (20 C.F.R. ...