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.
filed an application for a period of disability and DIB (T r.
66, 178-79, 180-83). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff’s claims both initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 12). Plaintiff then requested an
administrative hearing (Tr. 95-98). Per Plaintiff’s
request, the ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared
and testified (Tr. 31-55). Following the hearing, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled
and accordingly denied Plaintiff’s claims for benefits
(Tr. 12-24). 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 1959, claimed disability beginning November
21, 2014 (Tr. 178). Plaintiff has som e college but had not
graduated as of the hearing (Tr. 35, 200). Plaintiff’s
past relevant work experience included work as a customer
service representative, order clerk, and accounting clerk
(Tr. 23). Plaintiff alleged disability due to diabetes,
arthritis, back/neck injury, and depression/anxiety (Tr.
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 20, 2019, and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 21, 2014, the alleged onset date (Tr.
14). After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of
record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: hypertension, disorders of spine, right hip
osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (COPD), obesity, and diabetes mellitus (Tr. 14).
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.
18). The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff retained a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
sedentary work with the following limitations: occasionally
overhead reach with her left non-dominant upper extremity;
frequently handle and finger bilaterally; occasionally climb
ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds;
frequently stoop, balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl; frequent
exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor ventilation;
and occasional exposure to hazards such as moving mechanical
parts of equipment, tools or machinery (Tr. 18-19). 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. 19).
Plaintiff’s noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work (Tr. 23).
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 24).
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). 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