United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
ANTHONY E. PORCELLI UNITED SPATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks judicial review of the denial of her 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. 223-35). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims
both initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 149-54).
Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 169).
Per Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which
Plaintiff appeared and testified (Tr. 54-81). Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's
claims for benefits (Tr. 10-20). 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 1965, claimed disability beginning March 1,
2013 (Tr. 12, 18). Plaintiff obtained a limited seventh grade
education (Tr. 250-52). Plaintiff has no past relevant work
(Tr. 18). Plaintiff alleged disability due to blind right
eye-retinal detachment, COPD/chronic bronchitis, major
depression/adjustment disorder, hypertension/high
cholesterol, bilateral wrists and knee problems, lower back
problems, pain, memory loss, and wheezing in chest (Tr. 251,
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
September 30, 2013 and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 1, 2013, 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: blind right eye, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, depression, and history of substance abuse.
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 that the claimant can
occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds and
frequently climb ramps and stairs; has frequent near acuity,
far acuity, depth perception, accommodation, color vision and
field of vision; the claimant must avoid even moderate
exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases and
hazards; the claimant can perform unskilled work at SVP 1 or
SVP 2 levels; and she can perform simple, routine, repetitive
tasks and have occasional public contact and occasional
changes in a work setting (Tr. 14). 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. 15).
Plaintiff's background and RFC, the VE testified that
Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant
numbers in the national economy, such as a garment sorter,
laundry folder, and small parts assembler (Tr. 19).
Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled. Id.
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 ...