United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
B. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Ac t
(“Act”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying her claim for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits. Upon review,
the Commissioner's final decision is
April 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed for benefits, alleging an
onset date of December 31, 2008 (Tr. 327-329). She claimed
that she was disabled due to “problem with left hip,
pain in left hip, pain in right knee, swelling in both feet,
pain in legs and feet, heart problems, problems with bladder,
hysterectomy, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, high
cholesterol, anxiety, depression nervousness, trouble
sleeping, fatigue and cysts on left breast” (Tr. 361).
In May of 2010, Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty
issued a fully favorable decision granting Plaintiff's
application (Tr. 169-72). Five years later, the Commissioner
informed Plaintiff that her eligibility for benefits would
need to be re-determined because there was reason to believe
that she had been awarded benefits as the result of fraud
(Tr. 210-13). In 2016, Administrative Law Judge A. Benton
(the “ALJ”) held a new hearing and issued a
decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled between December
31, 2008, through May 3, 2010, the date the agency initially
allowed the claim, and terminated Plaintiff's benefits
(Tr. 10-32, 139-61). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of that decision (Tr.
1-6), making the ALJ's October 12, 2016 decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. Having exhausted the
available administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed this
action for judicial review (Doc. 1).
ALJ 's Decision
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ must
follow the five-step sequential evaluation process
established by the Social Security Administration and
published in 20 CFR §§ 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 CFR 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 Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity during the period from her
alleged onset date of December 31, 2008, through her date
last insured (Tr. 17). At step two, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the severe impairments of lumbar facet
degeneration, osteoarthritis of the right knee, status-post
meniscus repair of right knee, and obesity (20 CFR
404.1520(c)) (Tr. 17). But, at step three the ALJ found 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (Tr. 20). Next, the ALJ found that, through May 3,
2010, Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
perform a range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b) except she could only lift up to 15 pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently. She could balance,
stoop, kneel, and crouch occasionally but never crawl. The
beneficiary could occasionally climb ramps and stairs but
never climb ladders or scaffolds. She could sit for a total
of six hours in an eight-hour workday and stand and/or walk
for six hours in an eight-hour workday. Lastly, she needed to
avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, such as unprotected
heights or moving mechanical parts.
four, with the assistance of a vocational expert's
(“VE”) testimony, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a
storeowner, and so was not under a disability at any time
from December 31, 2008, through May 3, 2010 (Tr. 25).
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) (perc ...