United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
ANTHONY E. PORCELLI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks judicial review of the denial of his claim for
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 SSI (Tr. 291). The Commissioner
denied Plaintiff's claims both initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 166-68, 173-77). Plaintiff then
requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 178-79). Per
Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which
Plaintiff appeared and testified (Tr. 57-74). Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's
claims for benefits (Tr. 137-155). Consequently, Plaintiff
timely filed requested review of such denial, which was
remanded by action of the Appeals Council on January 24, 2017
(Tr. 156-160). Another hearing was held on July 13, 2017 (Tr.
75-103), and subsequent to such hearing, the Administrative
Law Judge issued an unfavorable decision on November 9, 2017
(Tr. 10-22). Plaintiff timely requested review of such
denial, which was denied by action of the Appeals Council on
March 23, 2018 (Tr. 1-5). 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 1963, claimed disability beginning January
15, 2005, a date the Plaintiff later amended to November 25,
2013 (Tr. 106, 10-12, 20). Plaintiff obtained a limited
seventh grade education and can communicate in English (Tr.
15, 20). Plaintiff has no past relevant work (Tr. 20).
Plaintiff alleged disability due to lower back pain, bipolar,
and depression (Tr. 105).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since November 25, 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: degenerative disc disease, coronary artery
disease (2-stent placement), chronic shoulder and elbow pain,
bipolar disorder, learning disorder, and depression.
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 less than the full range of light work. The
Plaintiff remains able to lift up to 20 pounds occasionally
and lift/carry up to 10 pounds frequently; can stand or walk
for approximately 6 hours per 8-hour workday, and sit for
approximately 6 hours per 8-hour workday with normal breaks;
is limited to occasional climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, and frequent all other postural limitations
including climbing ramps or stairs, balancing, stooping,
crouching, kneeling and crawling; limited reaching with the
right arm in front and laterally to frequent; the claimant
must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme hazards and
extreme heat; work is limited to unskilled work, specific
vocational preparation (SVP), 1 or 2, simple, routine,
repetitive tasks, occasional interaction with the public and
supervisors and only occasional changes in 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 his symptoms
were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence (Tr. 16). Given Plaintiff's background and
RFC, the VE testified that Plaintiff could perform other jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
including assembly such as filter assembler, production
inspection such as final inspector, and verifying and
recording such as marker (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 ...