Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sherwood v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

February 27, 2018

SHELLY M. SHERWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANTHONY E. PORCELLI United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff 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 and REMANDED.

         I.

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff 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).

         B. Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision

         Plaintiff, 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).

         In 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).

         Considering 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 (Tr. 38).

         II.

         To be 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. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         The 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).

         A 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).

         In 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.