United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
SHELLY M. SHERWOOD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
ANTHONY E. PORCELLI United States Magistrate Judge.
seeks judicial review of the denial of her claim for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). As the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) decision was not based on substantial
evidence and did not employ proper legal standards, it is
recommended that the Commissioner's decision be REVERSED
filed an application for a period of disability and DIB (Tr.
210-211). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims both
initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 134-136, 138-142).
Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing (Tr.
143-144). Per Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing
at which Plaintiff appeared and testified (Tr. 46-74).
Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied
Plaintiff's claims for benefits (Tr. 25-45).
Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals
Council, which the Appeals Council denied (Tr. 1-7).
Plaintiff then timely filed a complaint with this Court (Doc.
1). The case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
who was born in 1968, claimed disability beginning April 4,
2013 (Tr. 210- 211). Plaintiff has one year of college
education (Tr. 241). Plaintiff's past relevant work
experience included work as emergency medical technician
(“EMT”), a cardiac monitor technician, and a
nurse's aide (Tr. 68). Plaintiff alleged disability due
to fibromyalgia, cervical and lumbar spine impairments,
severe back pain, spinal stenosis, irritable bowel syndrome,
other digestive and neurological disorders, of chronic
obstruction pulmonary disease (“COPD”),
emphysema, and myoclonus (Tr. 240, 273).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2018 and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 4, 2013, the alleged onset date (Tr.
30). After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of
record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: myoclonus, chronic pain syndrome with left
shoulder subtle partial tear, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc
disease, and history of COPD (Tr. 31). Notwithstanding the
noted impairments, the ALJ determined 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. 32). The ALJ then
concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work except the
claimant can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently; stand or walk 6 hours in an 8-hour work
day; sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; frequently climb ramps
and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; frequently reach in front
and/or laterally and overhead on the left; frequently feel on
the left; and avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold,
heat, humidity, vibration, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor
ventilation, hazards, and noise (Tr. 32). 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
entirely credible (Tr. 33).
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as cardiac
monitor technician (Tr. 37). Accordingly, based on
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and the
testimony of the VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled
entitled to benefits, a claimant must be disabled, meaning he
or she must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which 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,
which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C. §§
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. §§
404.1520, 416.920. If an individual is found disabled at any
point in the sequential review, further inquiry is
unnecessary. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a).
Under this process, the ALJ must determine, in sequence, the
following: whether the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity; whether the claimant has a
severe impairment, i.e., one that significantly
limits the ability to perform work-related functions; whether
the severe impairment meets or equals the medical criteria of
20 C.F.R. Part 404 Subpart P, Appendix 1; and 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 his or her age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 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. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).
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), 1383(c)(3).
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) (internal quotation marks omitted));
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) (citations omitted).
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the court may not
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 supported ...