United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
P. FLYNN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks judicial review of the denial of his 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. 283-91). The Commissioner
denied Plaintiff's claims both initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 123-53). Plaintiff then requested an
administrative hearing (Tr. 169-71). Per Plaintiff's
request, the ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared
and testified (Tr. 62-78). Plaintiff also appeared and
testified at a supplemental hearing (Tr. 53-61). Following
the hearings, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's
claims for benefits (Tr. 33-45). Subsequently, Plaintiff
requested review from the Appeals Council, which the Appeals
Council denied (Tr. 1-7). 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 1980, claimed disability beginning July 1,
2009 (Tr. 283). Plaintiff obtained some high school education
(Tr. 65). Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
included work as a fast food worker and pizza delivery driver
(Tr. 44). Plaintiff alleged disability due to fibromyalgia,
bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, celiac disease, plaque
psoriasis, arthritis, bulging disk, and neuroma (Tr. 354).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 30, 2014, the application date (Tr. 35). After
conducting the hearings and reviewing the evidence of record,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: chronic pain syndrome; joint pain; spondylosis;
cervicalgia; Crohn's disease; hypertension; irritable
bowel syndrome (“IBS”); fibromyalgia;
degenerative disc disease; asthma; scoliosis; unspecified
bipolar and related disorder; generalized anxiety disorder;
and antisocial personality disorder (Tr. 35). 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. 35). The ALJ then
concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work with the
following limitations: can lift and/or carry 50 pounds
occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; can stand and/or walk
for six hours in an eight-hour workday and sit for six hours
in an eight-hour workday; can frequently push and/or pull
with the upper extremities, climb ramps and stairs, balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, reach waist to chest with both
arms, reach above shoulder level with both arms, handle with
both hands, finger with both hands, and feel with both hands;
can occasionally climb ladders and scaffolds and work around
high, exposed places; can frequently work around extreme
cold, extreme heat, wetness, humidity, vibration, pulmonary
irritants, and moving mechanical parts; able to perform
simple, routine, repetitive tasks and is able to understand,
remember, and carry out simple instructions; is limited to
work that requires occasional interaction with the public and
supervisors, as well as occasional interaction with
coworkers, defined to mean coworkers are on the premises, but
not in the individual's work space on more than an
occasional basis; and is unable to meet fast-paced, high
production demands (Tr. 37-38). 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 his symptoms were not
entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other
evidence (Tr. 39).
Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a
vocational expert (“VE”), however, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work
(Tr. 44). Given Plaintiff's background and RFC, the VE
testified that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, such as a
cleaner II; bagger, bench work; and scrap sorter (Tr. 45).
Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 45).
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. § 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) (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 supported by substantial
evidence and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002).