United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MARIA T. HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. SNEED, UNTIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Maria T. Hernandez, seeks judicial review of the denial of
her claim for period of disability and disability insurance
benefits. As the Administrative Law Judge's (âALJâ)
decision was based on substantial evidence and employed
proper legal standards, the Court recommends that the
decision be affirmed.
filed an application for period of disability and disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) on April 22, 2014.
(Tr. 77, 163-164.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
claims both initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr.
102-106.) Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing.
(Tr. 107.) Upon Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a
hearing at which Plaintiff appeared and testified. (Tr.
48-67.) Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly
denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 21-41.)
Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals
Council, which the Appeals Council denied. (Tr. 1-8.)
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 1955, claimed disability beginning on June 3,
2013. (Tr. 51.) Plaintiff has a sixth-grade education. (Tr.
51-52.) Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
included work as a cleaner-housekeeping (light/unskilled) and
receiving checker (medium/semiskilled). (Tr. 65.) Plaintiff
alleged disability due to depression, fibromyalgia,
hypertension, hepatitis C, fatigue, and osteopenia. (Tr. 68.)
rendering the decision, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
not disabled at any time during the relevant period from June
3, 2013, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2016,
the date of last insured. (Tr. 41.) After conducting a
hearing and reviewing the evidence of record, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: hypertension, depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) and osteoarthritis versus arthralgias versus
fibromyalgia (Tr. 23.) 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. 28.) The ALJ then concluded that
Plaintiff retained a residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, with additional
limitations. (Tr. 30.) 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. 35.)
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a
housekeeper (Tr. 40.) Given Plaintiff's background and
RFC, the VE testified that Plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work of cleaner housekeeper. (Tr. 65.) Accordingly,
based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
RFC, and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff not
disabled. (Tr. 41.)
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