United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
DEBRA L. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
S. SNEED UNTIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Debra L. Thomas, seeks judicial review of the denial of her
claim for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income. As the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision
was based on substantial evidence and employed proper legal
standards, the decision is affirmed.
filed an application for a period of disability on July 25,
2013. (Tr. 229, 235.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
claims both initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 151,
154, 159, 164.) Plaintiff then requested an administrative
hearing. (Tr. 171.) Upon Plaintiff's request, the ALJ
held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared and testified.
(Tr. 30-95.) Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and
accordingly denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr.
13-24.) Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the
Appeals Council, which the Appeals Council denied. (Tr. 1-4.)
Plaintiff then timely filed a complaint with this Court.
(Dkt. 1.) The case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
who was born in 1953, claimed disability beginning on October
7, 2013. (Tr. 229, 263.) Plaintiff has a high school
education and an Associate's Degree in computer
integrated manufacturing technology. (Tr. 268.)
Plaintiff's past relevant work experience included work
as a building illuminating engineer, auto engineer,
computer-aided design technician, and supervisor of drafting
and circuit design. (Tr. 22, 269.) Plaintiff alleged
disability due to migraines, chronic back and cervical pain,
osteoporosis, a history of left foot trauma, depression,
anxiety, mood swings, crying spells, acid reflux, chronic hip
pain, high blood pressure, asthmatic conditions, and
allergies. (Tr. 267.)
rendering the decision, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had
not performed substantial gainful activity since October 7,
2013, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 15.) After conducting a
hearing and reviewing the evidence of record, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: hypertension, headaches, and degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine. (Id.) Notwithstanding
the noted impairments, the ALJ determined 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. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ
then concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work except
Plaintiff “would be expected to be off-task 5 percent
of the time or 3 minutes per hour.” (Tr. 19.) In
formulating Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ considered
Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined that,
although the evidence established the presence of underlying
impairments that reasonably could be expected to produce the
symptoms alleged, Plaintiff's statements as to the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms
were not fully credible. (Tr. 20.)
Plaintiff's noted impairments, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work. (Tr. 22.)
Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled.
entitled to benefits, a claimant must be disabled, meaning
that the claimant must be unable to engage in 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.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A “physical
or mental impairment” is an impairment that results
from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities that are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).
Social Security Administration, in order to regularize the
adjudicative process, promulgated the detailed regulations
currently in effect. These regulations establish a
“sequential evaluation process” to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. If
an individual is found disabled at any point in the
sequential review, further inquiry is unnecessary. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a). Under this process, the ALJ must
determine, in sequence, the following: (1) whether the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment,
i.e., one that significantly limits the ability to perform
work-related functions; (3) whether the severe impairment
meets or equals the medical criteria of 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and, (4) whether the claimant can
perform his or her past relevant work. If the claimant cannot
perform the tasks required of his or her prior work, step
five of the evaluation requires the ALJ to decide if the
claimant can do other work in the national economy in view of
the claimant's age, education, and work experience. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a). A claimant is entitled to benefits
only if unable to perform other work. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
determination by the Commissioner that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if it is supported by substantial
evidence and comports with applicable legal standards.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197,
229 (1938)); Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1996). While the court reviews the
Commissioner's decision with deference to the factual
findings, no such deference is given to the legal
conclusions. Keeton v. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir. 1994).
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the court may not
decide the facts anew, re-weigh the evidence, or substitute
its own judgment for that of the ALJ, even if it finds that
the evidence preponderates against the ALJ's decision.
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
Cir. 1983). The Commissioner's failure to apply the
correct law, or to give the reviewing court sufficient
reasoning for determining that he or she has conducted the
proper legal analysis, mandates reversal. Keeton, 21
F.3d at 1066. The scope of review is thus limited to
determining whether the findings of the Commissioner are