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Gidley v. Saul

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

September 23, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.


          AMANDA ARNOLD SANSONE, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Eric John Gidley seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying his claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g). After reviewing the record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the administrative record, the pleadings, the joint memorandum the parties submitted, and the reply brief from Mr. Gidley, [2] the Commissioner’s decision is REMANDED for further consideration consistent with this order.


         On September 8, 2015, Mr. Gidley applied for DIB alleging disability beginning on August 28, 2015. (Tr. 375–76). Disability examiners denied Mr. Gidley’s application initially and after reconsideration. (Tr. 295–303). Mr. Gidley requested a hearing, and the ALJ held the hearing on May 15, 2017. (Tr. 35–77, 305–06). The ALJ issued a decision unfavorable to Mr. Gidley on September 8, 2017. (Tr. 20–28).

         Mr. Gidley requested a review of the decision and submitted additional evidence. (Tr. 8–11). The Appeals Council denied Mr. Gidley’s request for review so the ALJ’s decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1–7). Mr. Gidley now seeks review of the Commissioner’s final decision. (Doc. 1).


         A. Background

         Mr. Gidley was forty-seven years old when he submitted his DIB application, and he was forty-nine years old when the ALJ held the hearing. (Tr. 20, 27). Mr. Gidley has at least a high school education and past relevant work experience as a delivery driver and sales attendant. (Tr. 27). Mr. Gidley claimed disability because of “anxiety disorder with panic attacks, depression, bipolar and degenerative disc disease of lumbar spine.” (Tr. 38).

         B. Summary of the ALJ’s Decision

         The ALJ must follow five steps when evaluating a claim for disability.[3] 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). First, if a claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, [4]he is not disabled. § 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant has no impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit his physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities, then he has no severe impairment and is not disabled. § 404.1520(c); see McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1031 (11th Cir. 1986) (stating that step two acts as a filter and “allows only claims based on the most trivial impairments to be rejected”). Third, if a claimant’s impairments fail to meet or equal an impairment included in the Listings, he is not disabled. § 404.1520(d); 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. Fourth, if a claimant’s impairments do not prevent him from performing past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). At this fourth step, the ALJ determines the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”).[5]Fifth, if a claimant’s impairments (considering his RFC, age, education, and past work) do not prevent him from performing other work that exists in the national economy, then he is not disabled. § 404.1520(g).

         The ALJ determined Mr. Gidley engaged in no substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. 22). The ALJ found Mr. Gidley had the following severe impairments: “degenerative bulging and spondylosis of the lumbar spine; obesity; history of hyperlipidemia and gastroesophageal reflux disease; depression/bipolar disorder; and, anxiety/panic disorder, with history of panic attacks.” (Id.). Nonetheless, the ALJ found Mr. Gidley’s impairments or combination of impairments fail to meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment included in the Listings. (Id.).

         The ALJ then found Mr. Gidley has the RFC to perform light work[6] with these limitations:

He must avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, dangerous equipment, and vibrations. The claimant cannot interact with the public and can only occasionally interact with supervisors. He is also limited to simple, routine, unskilled job tasks, with only occasional changes in the work setting.

(Tr. 23). Based on these findings, the ALJ determined Mr. Gidley could not perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 27). The ALJ determined Mr. Gidley could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically cleaner/housekeeping, small parts assembler, and electronics worker. ...

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