United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
B. SMITH United States Magistrate Judge
Sandra Lozada Duran appeals to this Court from Defendant, the
Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying
her 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 forty-two
years old (Tr. 54-55). She has a high school education and
past relevant work experience as a cashier-checker and
administrative assistant (Id.; Tr. 41, 63). On
September 9, 2013, she applied for benefits, alleging a
disability onset date of February 1, 2013 (Tr. 24, 26,
225-238). Her claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration (Tr. 136-142, 145-155). At Plaintiff's
request, the ALJ held a hearing on October 29, 2015 (Tr.
50-68). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 3,
(Tr. 21, 24-43). Plaintiff asked the Appeals Council to
review the ALJ's decision and on January 3, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied the request for review (Tr. 1-4).
Thus, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's
final decision and this appeal timely followed (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies and her
case is ripe for review.
The ALJ's Decision
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 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 her February 1, 2013
alleged onset date (Tr. 26). At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff was severely impaired by: fibromyalgia, systemic
lupus erythematosus, and depression (Tr. 26-27). 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.
27-31). Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ decided that
Plaintiff had the residual functional
[P]erform less than the full range of light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). The claimant requires
work that is at most very low semi-skilled, which would be
tasks performed so frequently as to be considered routine
even though the tasks themselves might not be considered
simple. The claimant can only lift and carry ten pounds
frequently and twenty occasionally. The claimant can stand
and/or walk for six hours. The claimant can sit for a total
of six hours. The claimant should avoid frequent ascending
and descending of stairs. The claimant should avoid pushing
and pulling motions with her lower extremities. The claimant
should avoid hazards in the workplace. The claimant can
occasionally perform postural activities: balance, stoop,
crouch, kneel and crawl, but cannot climb, ropes, or
scaffolds, or climb ladders exceeding six feet. The claimant
is limited to no more than occasional overhead reaching with
the left non-dominant upper extremities. The claimant can
only perform occasional fine manipulation with fingering. The
claimant has non-exertional limitations which frequently
affect her ability to concentrate upon complex or detailed
tasks, but the claimant remains capable of understanding,
remembering, and carrying out job instructions (as defined
above). The claimant can make work related judgments and
decisions. The claimant can respond appropriately to
supervision, co-workers, and work situations. The claimant
can deal with changes in a routine work setting.
(Tr. 31-41). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to
perform her past relevant work (Tr. 41). But, the ALJ
ultimately concluded at step five that there were other jobs
in the national economy-like job router, furniture rental
consultant, and sandwich board carrier- that Plaintiff could
perform and therefore, she was not disabled (Tr. 42-43).
Standard of Review
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's RFC Assessment Was Based On ...