United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
S. SNEED UNTIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ray Zoslow, seeks judicial review of the denial of his claim
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.
As the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”)
decision was based on substantial evidence and employed
proper legal standards, the decision is affirmed.
23, 2006, Plaintiff was found disabled as of January 1, 2006.
(Tr. 94.) During a continuing disability review, it was
determined that Plaintiff had experienced a medical
improvement and was no longer disabled as of May 9, 2013.
(Tr. 94-96.) Upon Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held two
hearings at which Plaintiff appeared and testified. (Tr.
36-79.) Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly
denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 15-25.)
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 1968, claimed continuing disability beginning
on January 1, 2006. (Tr. 224, 236.) Plaintiff has a high
school education. (Tr. 24.) Plaintiff's past relevant
work experience includes work as a bagger and stocker.
(Id.) Plaintiff alleged continued disability due to
major depression, sleep disorder, learning disability,
attention deficit disorder, and anxiety. (Tr. 225.)
rendering the decision, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had
not performed substantial gainful activity since May 2, 2013.
(Tr. 17.) After conducting a hearing and reviewing the
evidence of record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: depression, personality
disorder, borderline intelligence quotient, attention deficit
disorder, learning disability, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and obstructive sleep
apnea. (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. (Id.) The ALJ then concluded that
Plaintiff retained a residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with additional
limitations. (Tr. 22.) Specifically, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds and can occasionally climb ramps and stairs.
(Id.) The ALJ further found that Plaintiff is
precluded from performing work around dust, fumes, gases,
noxious odors, extreme heat, or extreme cold, and is capable
of no more than unskilled work involving occasional
interaction with the general public. (Id.) 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 his symptoms
were not fully credible. (Tr. 23.)
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), however, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant
work. (Tr. 24.) Given Plaintiff's background and RFC, the
VE testified that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy, such as a
sales attendant, an advertising material distributor, and an
assembler. (Tr. 25.) Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of
the VE, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's disability ended
as of May 9, 2013. (Tr. 25.)
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 whether the
claimant can perform 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. § 416.920(g).
ALJ assesses a claimant's continuing disability, the ALJ
proceeds with the first two steps of the sequential
evaluation process, then evaluates whether there has been a
medical improvement. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1594(b)(1), (f)(3). A medical improvement is defined as
any decrease in the medical severity of the claimant's
impairments based on changes in the symptoms, signs, and/or
laboratory findings associated with the claimant's
impairments. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(b)(1). If
there has been a medical improvement, the ALJ must determine
whether it is related to the claimant's ability to do
work and if his or her RFC has increased. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1594(f)(4). The ALJ will then evaluate
whether the claimant's current impairments in combination
are severe, assess the claimant's current RFC, and
determine whether the claimant can perform his or her past
relevant work or other work. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1594(f)(6)-(9). If the claimant is able to perform past
or other work, the claimant's disability has ended.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(f)(8).
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 ...