United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
BARBARA V. RAMPHAL, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,  Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. FLWN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks judicial review of her cessation of social security
disability benefits. As the Administrative Law Judge's
("ALJ") decision was based on substantial evidence
and employed proper legal standards, it is recommended that
the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
initially filed an application for a period of disability,
DIB, and SSI on November 29, 2000 (Tr. 82). The ALJ issued a
favorable decision finding Plaintiff became disabled on July
14, 2000 (Tr. 74-82). On October20, 2014, Plaintiff was
informed that her disability had ceased due to health
improvements (Tr. 85-90). Plaintiff filed a request for
reconsideration, and a disability hearing officer issued a
decision ceasing Plaintiffs disability benefits (Tr. 91,
98-105). Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing
(Tr. 112). The ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared
and testified (Tr. 40-69). Following the hearing, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled
and accordingly denied Plaintiffs claims for benefits (Tr.
13-39). 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.
BACKGROUND AND THE ALPS DECISION
who was born in 1973, claimed disability beginning in July
14, 2000 (Tr. 78, 197). Plaintiff obtained an Associate
Degree (Tr. 24). Plaintiffs past relevant work experience
included work as a bank teller, a customer service
representative, and a waitress (Tr. 18). Plaintiff alleged
disability arising from bilateral shoulder disorder, diabetes
mellitus, diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, major
depression disorder, and anxiety (Tr. 24).
evaluating Plaintiffs cessation of benefits claim, the ALJ
concluded that as of October 1, 2014, Plaintiff had severe
impairments of anxiety, depression, diabetes mellitus,
diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, and bilateral
shoulder disorder (Tr. 18). However, the ALJ found Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed
in the regulations as of October 1, 2014 (Tr. 20). Further,
the ALJ found that medical improvement occurred as of October
1, 2014 (Tr. 21). Then, the ALJ found that as of October 1,
2014, the impairments present at the time of the Comparison
Point Date ("CPD")-December 14, 2004-had decreased
in medical severity to the point where Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform at
less than the full range of light work (Tr. 23). Thus, the
ALJ found Plaintiffs medical improvement was related to the
ability to work, because it resulted in an increase in her
RFC (Tr. 23). The ALJ then found that as of October 1, 2014,
Plaintiff continued to have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments (Tr. 23). Based on the impairments
present as of October 1, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) with additional
limitations (Tr. 24). Specifically, she could never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; could occasionally climb ramps
or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; could
frequently reach with her bilateral upper extremities; and
needed to avoid concentrated exposure to workplace hazards.
Further, she could not perform jobs requiring more that
occasional peripheral vision. She could perform simple,
routine, and repetitive tasks with occasional changes in a
routine work setting, and she could occasionally interact
with coworkers and the general public (Tr. 24).
formulating Plaintiffs RFC, the ALJ considered Plaintiffs
subjective complaints and determined that, although the
evidence established the presence of underlying impairments
that reasonably could be expected to produce the symptoms
alleged, Plaintiffs statements as to the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not
entirely consistent with the medical history, the reports of
treating and examining physicians and psychiatrists, the
degree of medical treatment required, and Plaintiffs own
description of her activities and lifestyle (Tr. 25).
Plaintiffs noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert ("VE"), however, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff could not perform past relevant work
(Tr. 31). Given Plaintiffs background and RFC, the VE
testified that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, such as a
labeler, merchandise marker, or electrode cleaner (Tr. 32).
Accordingly, based on Plaintiffs age, education, work
experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiffs disability ended as of that date
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. 42U.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. 42U.S.C. §§
order to regularize the adjudicative process, the Social
Security Administration 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. The regulations also
establish a sequential evaluation process to determine
whether a claimant's disability continues. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.994(b)(5). Under this process, the ALJ must
determine, in sequence, the following: (1) whether the
claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments
which meets or equals the severity of an impairment listed in
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (2) if the
claimant does not have such impairment or combination of
impairments, whether there has been medical
improvement; (3) if the claimant experienced medical
improvement, whether such medical improvement is related to
the claimant's ability to perform work, i.e.,
whether or not there has been an increase in the RFC based on
the impairment(s) that was present at the time of the most
recent favorable medical determination; (4) whether an
exception applies to a finding of no medical improvement or
to a finding that medical improvement was not related to the
claimant's ability to work; (5) whether the claimant has
a severe impairment; (6) if a severe impairment exists,
whether the claimant can perform substantial gainful activity
such that the claimant can perform his or her past relevant
work; (7) if unable to perform past relevant work, whether
the claimant can perform other work 20 C.F.R. §
determination by the Commissioner 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)
(citing Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145
(11th Cir. 1991)).
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 by ...