Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pierce v. Saul

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

September 17, 2019

ANGELIA PIERCE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          Anthony E. Porcelli United Spates Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the denial of her 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.

         I.

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI (Tr. 242-50). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims both initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 146-70, 174-84). Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 185-87). Per Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared and testified (Tr. 52-97). Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits (Tr. 25-48). 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).

         B. Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision

         Plaintiff, who was born in 1968, claimed disability beginning June 28, 2012, which Plaintiff later amended to an alleged onset date of August 18, 2014 (Tr. 55-56, 242). Plaintiff obtained a high school education (Tr. 276). Plaintiff did not have any past relevant work (Tr. 40, 91). Plaintiff alleged disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, arthritis, and concentration problems (Tr. 275).

         In rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 18, 2014, the application date (Tr. 30). After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: asthma, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorder (Tr. 30). 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. 31). The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except that Plaintiff could stand and walk, with normal breaks, for four hours in an eight-hour workday; sit, with normal breaks, for four hours in an eight-hour workday; must change her position approximately every hour; could bend and stoop occasionally; could climb ramps and stairs occasionally; could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; was unable to work around smoke, fumes, dust, or noxious odors; was limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, with no assembly-line type of production quotas; could have only occasional contact with supervisors and coworkers; and could have no contact with the general public (Tr. 33). 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. 34).

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant work (Tr. 40). Given Plaintiff's background and RFC, the vocational expert (“VE”) testified that Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as a mail sorter, office helper, and photocopy operator (Tr. 41, 92-93). Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 42).

         II.

         To be entitled to benefits, a claimant must be disabled, meaning the claimant 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. §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. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         The 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. § 416.920. If an individual is found disabled at any point in the sequential review, further inquiry is unnecessary. 20 C.F.R. § 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. § 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. § 416.920(g).

         A 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) (citing Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991)).

         In 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.