United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
G. WILSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE..
plaintiff in this case seeks judicial review of the denial of
her claim for Social Security disability
benefits. Because, contrary to the plaintiffs sole
contention, the Appeals Council did not err in declining to
review the administrative decision after the submission of
additional evidence, the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security will be affirmed.
plaintiff, who was fifty-two years old at the time of the
administrative hearing, and who has an eleventh grade
education, has past relevant work as a bus driver and
custodian (Tr. 28, 72, 84). She filed a claim for Social
Security disability benefits, alleging that she became
disabled due to a left arm injury, arthritis in her neck and
spine, a heart murmur, anxiety and left leg pain (Tr. 84).
The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
plaintiff, at her request, then received a de novo
hearing before an administrative law judge. The law judge
found that the plaintiff had severe impairments of
"cervical spondylosis; history of left humerus fracture,
comminuted, with slow healing, status post open reduction
internal fixation (ORIF); and hypertension with heart
palpitation/murmur without heart disease" (Tr. 22). He
determined that, as a result of these impairments, the
plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (Tr.
[The ability to perform light work] as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b). Specifically, the claimant can occasionally lift
up to 20 pounds, frequently lift and/or carry up to 10
pounds, she can stand and/or walk for about 6 hours and sit
for about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks.
With the left minor upper extremity, she should only
occasionally engage in pushing and pulling, and on the left
she can no more than frequently reach but not overhead
(unlimited on the major right upper extremity). She should
not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds[.] She can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs[.] She can frequently balance and
stoop, occasionally kneel and crouch and she should not
crawl. The claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme cold and excessive noise and excessive vibration. She
should avoid even moderate exposure to environmental
irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, and poorly
ventilated areas, and she should avoid all industrial
hazards, such as the use of industrial hazardous machinery
and unprotected heights. With the left minor extremity, the
claimant should avoid reaching and lifting repetitively.
judge found that, with these limitations, the plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr. 28). However,
based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the law judge
determined that the plaintiff could perform other jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy, such as
mailroom clerk, sales attendant and survey worker (Tr. 29).
The law judge therefore decided on June 14, 2017, that the
plaintiff was not disabled (id.).
plaintiff sought review by, and submitted new evidence to,
the Appeals Council (see Tr. 2). The Appeals Council
"found no reason under [its] rules to review the
Administrative Law Judge's decision" (Tr. 1). It
also discussed the new evidence, which consisted of treatment
notes from Dr. Moethu Win dated October 18, 2017, and
December 28, 2017 (Tr. 2, 36-39). The Appeals Council found
that this "additional evidence does not relate to the
period at issue. Therefore, it does not affect the decision
about whether [the plaintiff] w[as] disabled beginning on or
before June 14, 2017, " the date of the law judge's
decision (Tr. 2). Accordingly, the Appeals Council let the
decision of the law judge stand as the final decision of the
defendant (Tr. 1). The plaintiffs appeal solely challenges
the Appeals Council's conclusion.
order to be entitled to Social Security disability benefits,
a claimant must be unable "to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which ... has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months." 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A). A "physical or
mental impairment, " under the terms of the Social
Security Act, is one "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).
determination by the Commissioner that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. 405(g). 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 Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938). Under the substantial evidence test,
"findings of fact made by administrative agencies ...
may be reversed ... only when the record compels a reversal;
the mere fact that the record may support a contrary
conclusion is not enough to justify a reversal of the
administrative findings." Adefemi v. Ashcroft,
386 F.3d 1022, 1027 (11th Cir. 2004) (en banc).
moreover, the function of the Commissioner, and not the
courts, to resolve conflicts in the evidence and to assess
the credibility of the witnesses. Grant v.
Richardson, 445 F.2d 656 (5th Cir. 1971).
Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Commissioner to
draw inferences from the evidence, and those inferences are
not to be overturned if they are supported by substantial
evidence. Celebrezze v. O'Brient, 323 F.2d 989,
990 (5th Cir. 1963).
in determining whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the court is not to
reweigh the evidence, but is limited to determining whether
the record as a whole contains sufficient evidence to permit
a reasonable mind to conclude that the claimant is not
disabled. However, the court, in its review, mustsatisfy
itself that the proper legal ...