United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Joseph Kline's Complaint (Doc. 1)
filed on January 25, 2017. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying his 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 his 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).
15, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits. (Tr. at 197,
194-95). Plaintiff asserted an onset date of March 10, 2014.
(Id. at 194). Plaintiff's application was denied
initially on July 11, 2014 and on reconsideration on August
22, 2014. (Id. at 94, 114). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Hope G. Grunberg held a hearing on
September 22, 2015. (Id. at 46-83). The ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision on October 27, 2015. (Id. at
25-40). The ALJ found Plaintiff not to be under a disability
from March 10, 2014, through the date of the decision.
(Id. at 40).
January 9, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Id. at 1-6). Plaintiff filed a
Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on
January 25, 2017. This case is ripe for review. The parties
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge
for all proceedings. (See Doc. 12).
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if a claimant has proven that he is disabled.
Packer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 542 F. App'x
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 his 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 F. App'x 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir.
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2018. (Tr. at 27). At step one of the
sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 10, 2014,
the alleged onset date. (Id.). At step two, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “lumbar and cervical degenerative disc
disease; left shoulder rotator cuff tear with impingement
syndrome and history of surgery; light shoulder tendinopathy;
asthma; obstructive sleep apnea; history of ventricular
arrhythmia and loop recorder implant; and obesity.”
(Id. at 28). 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. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and
404.1526). (Id. at 31).
four, the ALJ found the following:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR [§] 404.1567(b)
except the claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He should
avoid workplace hazards including unprotected heights,
commercial driving, and dangerous, moving machinery. The
claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
temperatures, vibration, and respiratory irritants such as
fumes, dusts, odors, gases, and areas of poor ventilation. He
can frequently reach overhead with the bilateral upper
extremities. Due to the combination of his symptoms and
impairments, the claimant is limited to understanding,
remembering and carrying out simple, routine and repetitive
(Id. at 32).
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past
relevant work as a school bus driver, security guard, or
newspaper delivery driver. (Id. at 38). The ALJ
considered Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and residual functional capacity, and found that there were
jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Id. at
38-40). The ALJ noted that the vocational expert identified
the following representative occupations that Plaintiff was
able to perform: (1) Cashier II, DOT # 211.462-010, light,
SVP2; (2) cleaner, housekeeping, DOT # 323.687-014, light,
SVP 2; and (3) mail clerk/mailroom clerk, DOT # 209-687-026,
light, SVP 2. (Id. at 39). The ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not under a disability at any time from March
10, 2014, through the date of the decision. (Id. at
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the findings are supported by substantial
evidence, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971). 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-i.e., the evidence must do more than
merely create a suspicion of the existence of a fact, and
must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support the conclusion. Foote
v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing
Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir.
1982); Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401).
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 evidence
preponderates against” the Commissioner's decision.
Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th
Cir. 1991); Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358
(11th Cir. 1991). The district court must view the evidence
as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the decision. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1560;
accord Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th
Cir. 1992) (court must scrutinize the entire record to
determine reasonableness of factual findings).