United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS N FRXZIER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Denise Buttner, seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her claim for a period of
disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The
Commissioner filed the Transcript of the proceedings
(hereinafter referred to as “Tr.” followed by the
appropriate page number), and the parties filed a joint
memorandum setting forth their respective positions. For the
reasons set out herein, the decision of the Commissioner is
AFFIRMED pursuant to § 205(g) of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility, Standard of Review,
Procedural History, and the ALJ's Decision
Social Security Act Eligibility
defines disability as the inability to do 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.
§§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be
severe, making the claimant unable to do her previous work,
or any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
1382(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505-404.1511,
Standard of Review
Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate support to a conclusion. Even if the evidence
preponderated against the Commissioner's findings, we
must affirm if the decision reached is supported by
substantial evidence.” Crawford v. Comm'r,
363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997));
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
1990). In conducting this review, this Court may not reweigh
the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ,
but must consider the evidence as a whole, taking into
account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the
decision. Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1329, 1330
(11th Cir. 2002); Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553,
1560 (11th Cir. 1995). However, the District Court will
reverse the Commissioner's decision on plenary review if
the decision applied incorrect law, or if the decision fails
to provide sufficient reasoning to determine that the
Commissioner properly applied the law. Keeton v.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064,
1066 (11th Cir. 1994). The Court reviews de novo the
conclusions of law made by the Commissioner of Social
Security in a disability benefits case. Social Security Act,
§ 205(g), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
must follow five steps in evaluating a claim of disability.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, the
claimant must prove that she is not undertaking substantial
gainful employment. Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1278 (11th Cir. 2001), see 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If a claimant is engaging in any
substantial gainful activity, she will be found not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
two, the claimant must prove that she is suffering from a
severe impairment or combination of impairments.
Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278, 20 C.F.R. §
1520(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments does not significantly limit her
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, the
ALJ will find that the impairment is not severe, and the
claimant will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
three, the claimant must prove that her impairment meets or
equals one of impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P. App. 1; Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278; 20 C.F.R.
§ 1520(a)(4)(iii). If she meets this burden, she will be
considered disabled without consideration of age, education
and work experience. Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278.
four, if the claimant cannot prove that her impairment meets
or equals one of the impairments listed in Appendix 1, she
must prove that her impairment prevents her from performing
her past relevant work. Id. At this step, the ALJ
will consider the claimant's RFC and compare it with the
physical and mental demands of her past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. § 1520(a)(4)(iv), 20 C.F.R. § 1520(f). If
the claimant can still perform her past relevant work, then
she will not be found disabled. Id.
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that the
claimant is capable of performing other work available in the
national economy, considering the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and past work experience. Doughty, 245
F.3d at 1278; 20 C.F.R. § 1520(a)(4)(v). If the claimant
is capable of performing other work, she will be found not
disabled. Id. In determining whether the
Commissioner has met this burden, the ALJ must develop a full
and fair record regarding the vocational opportunities
available to the claimant. Allen v. Sullivan, 880
F.2d 1200, 1201 (11th Cir. 1989). There are two ways in which
the ALJ may make this determination. The first is by applying
the Medical Vocational Guidelines (“the Grids”),
and the second is by the use of a vocational expert
(“VE”). Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d
1232, 1239 (11th Cir. 2004). Only after the Commissioner
meets this burden does the burden shift back to the claimant
to show that she is not capable of performing the
“other work” as set forth by the Commissioner.
Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 n.2 (11th Cir.
filed an application for a period of disability and DIB and
an application for SSI on March 19, 2015, alleging in both
applications disability beginning February 1, 2012. (Tr. 16,
214). Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on June 16,
2015, and upon reconsideration on November 30, 2015. (Tr.
65-73, 74-84, 87-96, 97-109). Plaintiff requested a hearing,
and, on April 5, 2017, an administrative hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge Lisa B. Martin (“the
ALJ”). (Tr. 37-64). Following the hearing, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on September 6, 2017, finding
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 16-31). Plaintiff
requested review of the ALJ's decision but, on April 13,
2018, the ...