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
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. 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).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
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).
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).
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
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. §
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).
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)).
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 ...