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
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.
applied for DIB on June 5, 2015 (Tr. 189–95). The
Commissioner denied Plaintiff’s claim both initially
and upon reconsideration (Tr. 91–95, 99–103). The
ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff and her husband, David
E. Bach, appeared and testified (Tr. 36–56). Following
the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and, accordingly, denied
Plaintiff’s claim for benefits (Tr. 13–35).
Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals
Council, which was 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),
BACKGROUND AND THE ALJ’S DECISION
who was born in 1965, claimed disability beginning May 1,
2014 (Tr. 27, 189). Plaintiff obtained a high school
education (Tr. 27, 40). Plaintiff’s past relevant work
experience included work as a medical assistant, bank teller,
customer service representative, bank branch manager, and
restaurant manager (Tr. 52). Plaintiff alleged disability due
to bulging discs, sciatic nerve issues, anxiety disorder,
gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), and high cholesterol
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2018, and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 1, 2014, the alleged onset date (Tr. 18).
After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of
record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine,
obesity, and anxiety disorder (Tr. 18). 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. 19). The ALJ then
concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with the
following additional limitations: Plaintiff can lift up to
twenty pounds occasionally and lift or carry ten pounds
frequently. She can stand or walk for approximately six hours
and sit for approximately six hours in an eight-hour workday
with normal breaks. She can occasionally climb ladders,
ropes, scaffolds, ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, crouch,
kneel, and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme cold, extreme heat, excessive wetness, humidity,
excessive vibrations, and hazards. She can perform unskilled,
SVP 1-2, jobs with simple, routine and repetitive tasks (Tr.
considering Plaintiff’s noted impairments and the
assessment of a vocational expert (“VE”),
however, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could not perform her
past relevant work (Tr. 27). Given Plaintiff’s
background and RFC, the VE testified that Plaintiff could
perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy (Tr. 28). Based on Plaintiff’s age,
education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 29).
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, 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