United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
B. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“Act”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3), to obtain judicial review of a final
decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”)
denying her claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income under the Act. Upon review, the
Commissioner's final decision in this case is affirmed.
September 12, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income, alleging disability commencing on November 20, 2011,
due to lupus, Lyme disease, Chiari malformation, numbness in
her hands, migraines, dizziness, blurry vision, seizures,
neck and shoulder pain, anxiety, depression, and an aneurysm
(Tr. 43-44, 93, 254-261, 285, 318). Plaintiff later amended her
alleged onset date of disability to January 15, 2014 (Tr. 43,
285). Her claims were denied initially and on reconsideration
(Tr. 167-169, 171-173, 176-180, 182-186) and Plaintiff
requested and received a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) 41-72, 187-188). On March 9, 2016,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled and issued his
unfavorable decision (Tr. 8-40). On April 18, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
(Tr. 1-6). Accordingly, the ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision. This appeal timely
followed (Doc. 1).
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ must
follow the five-step sequential evaluation process
established by the Social Security Administration and which
appears in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and
416.920(a)(4). Specifically, 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 any 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.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987);
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241 n.10.
the ALJ performed the required five-step sequential analysis.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her amended onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.)
(Tr. 14). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
the severe impairments of: a seizure disorder; a Chiari I
malformation of the craniovertebral junction (with
headaches); neuropathy; degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine; degenerative joint disease/bursitis of the
spine; a bipolar disorder; an anxiety disorder; an
attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder; and a substance
use disorder in remission (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))
(Tr. 14). But, the ALJ found at step three that Plaintiff did
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.
17). Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b), with additional limitations. The claimant can
lift, carry, push, or pull 20 pounds occasionally (up to
one-third of the workday) and 10 pounds frequently (up to two
thirds of the workday), as well as sit, stand, or walk for 6
hours each out of an 8-hour workday. The claimant can
frequently use hand controls and frequently handle with both
upper extremities. The claimant can never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds, but can frequently climb ramps and
stairs. The claimant can frequently balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. The claimant can never operate a motor
vehicle as part of the work duties. The claimant can have
occasional exposure to vibration. The claimant has to avoid
all exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights or moving
machinery. Additionally, the claimant is limited to
performing simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; is limited
to making simple work-related decisions; and, is limited to
having occasional interaction with coworkers, supervisors,
and the general public.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work (Tr. 31). However, after applying the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines as a framework for decision
making and considering the Vocational Expert's testimony
and Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform a significant number of
jobs in the national economy (Tr. 32-33), and was therefore
not under a disability (Tr. 33).
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). 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)
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 ...