United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
ANTHONY E. PORCELLI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks judicial review of the denial of her claim for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). As the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) decision was based on substantial
evidence and employed proper legal standards, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
filed an application for a period of disability and DIB (Tr.
161). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims both
initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 69-96). Plaintiff
then requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 98). Per
Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which
Plaintiff appeared and testified (Tr. 748-776). Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's
claims for benefits (Tr. 10-22). Subsequently, Plaintiff
requested review from the Appeals Council, which the Appeals
Council denied (Tr. 1). Plaintiff then timely filed a
complaint with this Court (Doc. 1). The case is now ripe for
review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
who was born in 1975, claimed disability beginning October 7,
2014 (Tr. 12). Plaintiff obtained a high school education
(Tr. 21). Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
included work as an insurance agent and credit clerk.
Id. Plaintiff alleged disability due to arthritis,
fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety,
panic attack, and headaches (Tr. 60).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2019 and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 7, 2014, the alleged onset date (Tr.
12). After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of
record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: lumbar spine multilevel disc bulges, cervical
spine degenerative changes, major depressive disorder, and
unspecified anxiety disorder. Id. Notwithstanding
the noted impairments, the ALJ determined 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. 13). The ALJ then
concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except
she can perform no more than occasional climbing, balancing,
stopping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; and occasional
climbing of vertical ladders, but never climbing of
scaffolds, ropes, or at open unprotected heights; must avoid
extreme industrial vibrations and operation of dangerous
machinery; limited to understanding and carrying out simple,
routine, repetitive tasks with the ability to make basic
decisions and adjust to simple changes in the work setting;
can attend and concentrate on these simple routine repetitive
tasks for two hour segments, after which she will need a
break of 10 to 15 minutes; and her interaction with the
public, co-workers, and supervisors should be limited to
occasional as long as involving simple, routine, repetitive
procedures and tasks (Tr. 15). 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 entirely consistent with the
medical evidence and other evidence (Tr. 16).
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), however, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work
(Tr. 20). 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 an
advertising materials distributor, small products assembler
II, and bench assembler (Tr. 21). Accordingly, based on
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and the
testimony of the VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled
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. 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,
which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C. §§
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. §§
404.1520, 416.920. If an individual is found disabled at any
point in the sequential review, further inquiry is
unnecessary. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a).
Under this process, the ALJ must determine, in sequence, the
following: whether the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity; whether the claimant has a
severe impairment, i.e., one that significantly
limits the ability to perform work-related functions; whether
the severe impairment meets or equals the medical criteria of
20 C.F.R. Part 404 Subpart P, Appendix 1; and 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 his or her age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 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. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).
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), 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) (citations omitted).
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 ...