United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
ANTHONY E. PORCELLI UNITED SPATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks judicial review of the denial of his claim for a period
of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). 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, DIB, and SSI
(Tr. 375-80). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims
both initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 141-48, 157-62).
Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing (Tr.
163-64). Per Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing,
and, following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly
denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits (Tr. 104-26).
Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, which
the Appeals Council granted. Upon consideration, the Appeals
Council remanded the matter to the ALJ for further
consideration (Tr. 127-31). On remand, the ALJ obtained
additional evidence and conducted a new hearing (Tr.
43-68). After the hearing, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision, again finding Plaintiff not disabled
(Tr. 17-42). Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from
the Appeals Council, which the Appeals Council denied (Tr.
1-6). 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 1968, claimed disability beginning February
28, 2009 (Tr. 375, 377). Plaintiff obtained a high school
education (Tr. 427). Plaintiff's past relevant work
experience included work as a fence erector and tree trimmer
(Tr. 59-61, 428-31). Plaintiff alleged disability due to
liver problems, possible multiple sclerosis, possible
aneurism, and a stutter (Tr. 427).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2009 and that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 28, 2009, the
alleged onset date (Tr. 23). After conducting a hearing and
reviewing the evidence of record, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: seizure
disorder, stuttering, status post left tibia/fibula fracture,
osteomyelitis, tachycardia, and hypertension (Tr. 23).
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.
28). The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff retained a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work, except that Plaintiff could not climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; should have no exposure to hazardous
machinery; and limit the public contact to six hours during
the workday (Tr. 28). 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 entirely consistent with the
medical evidence and other evidence (Tr. 29).
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), however, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work
(Tr. 31). 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
office helper, a hand packager, and a housekeeping cleaner
(Tr. 32). Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 32).
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 ...