United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
P. FLYNN 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.
on November 18, 2010, Plaintiff had filed applications for a
period of disability, DIB, and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) (Tr. 125). An ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on April 17, 2013, denying those applications (Tr.
119-38). Subsequently and at issue here, on February 26,
2015, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a
period of disability and DIB, alleging an onset date of April
18, 2013 (Tr. 15, 34). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's claim for a period of disability and DIB both
initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 15, 34-36). Plaintiff
then requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 15, 158). Per
Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which
Plaintiff appeared and testified (Tr. 15, 25-56). Following
the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's
claim for benefits (Tr. 9-24). Subsequently, Plaintiff
requested review from the Appeals Council, which the Appeals
Council denied (Tr. 1-8). 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 1962, claimed disability beginning April 18,
2013 (Tr. 15, 29). Plaintiff obtained a high school education
(Tr. 50). Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
included work as an industrial cleaner (Tr. 41). Plaintiff
alleged disability due to fibromyalgia, arthritis, scoliosis,
and lower back pain (Tr. 18, 42).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2013 and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 18, 2013, the alleged onset date (Tr.
18). After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of
record, the ALJ determined that there were insufficient
subjective and objective evidence, and no medical signs or
laboratory findings, to substantiate the existence of a
medically determinable impairment through the date last
insured (Tr. 19). Therefore, the ALJ determined that the
claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, at any time from April 18, 2013, the alleged
onset date, through December 31, 2013, the date last insured
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.
§§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).
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. If
an individual is found disabled at any point in the
sequential review, further inquiry is unnecessary. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(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). A claimant is
entitled to benefits only if unable to perform other work.
Bowen v. Y uckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987); 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(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)
(citations omitted). 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
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 substantial
evidence and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002).
argues here that the ALJ erred by not considering the
findings in t he prior ALJ decision (Doc. 22 at 5).
Additionally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to fully
and fairly develop the record by failing to order a
consultative examination regarding the Plaintiff's
psychological difficulties (Doc. 22 at 9). For the reasons
that follow, the ...