United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
A. PIZZO, JUDGE
an appeal of the administrative denial of disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and period of disability benefits.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In this appeal,
Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by failing to find his upper
extremity impairments severe and failing to include
limitations in his RFC related to such impairments; by
failing to find he met a Listing impairment; by finding he
acknowledged he might have substance abuse issues; and by
improperly weighing opinions of treating and non-treating
medical sources. Plaintiff also asserts the ALJ was not
properly appointed under the United States Constitution and
lacked properly authority to hear and decide this case. After
considering the parties' joint memorandum of law (doc.
26) and the administrative record (doc. 16), I find that the
ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence;
I remand for further administrative proceedings.
Joseph Wade Huebert was born in 1977 and has a high school
education. He has worked since he was 13, mostly as a
laborer. His jobs include carpentry; construction;
bartending; window-unit air-conditioning installer and
servicer helper; and kitchen helper. The relevant time period
for DIB purposes is from March 1, 2014, to March 31, 2017
(Plaintiff's date of last insured, or DLI). When asked
why he alleges disability beginning March 1, 2014, he
explained that is when he “started losing control of
[his ] body, being able to actually do normal day to day
things (R. 95). He testified that he has lost the use of his
hands (his hands cramp up with he uses a knife and fork after
about three to five minutes), and he has trouble walking (he
can walk less than a quarter of a mile due to pain and nerve
problems in his knees, ankle, and hip) (R. 99-100).
he was no longer capable of physical labor, he enrolled in
online design courses but was unable to complete them due to
hand cramps and difficulty sitting in front of his computer
(R. 105). He also has a history of depression and had several
suicide attempts prior to the alleged onset date (R. 107).
hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from the severe
impairments of “degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine, status post anterior cervical discectomy and
fusion; meniscal tear of the right knee, status post
arthroscopic medial meniscectomy; bilateral knee arthritis;
traumatic arthritis of the right ankle, status post internal
fixation; dyspnea; and depressive disorder” (R. 19).
The ALJ further found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (R.
19). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled,
because he retains the RFC to perform light work except as
… he could stand and/or walk for four hours in an
eight-hour workday; sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday; frequently stoop; occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme environmental cold, vibrations, dusts,
odors, fumes, and gases, and he must avoid workplace hazards,
such as unprotected heights and unshielded rotating
machinery. He could perform simple work with a specific
vocational preparation (SVP) level no higher than two, and he
can frequently interact with supervisors, coworkers, and the
(R. 21) With the assistance of a vocational expert (VE), the
ALJ found that, with this RFC, Plaintiff could not perform
his past relevant work, but could perform jobs existing
nationally including final assembler, food and beverage order
clerk, and table worker (R. 28). The AC denied review.
Plaintiff, after exhausting his administrative remedies,
filed this action.
Standard of Review
entitled to DIB, a claimant 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
12 months.” See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(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.” See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).
Social Security Administration, to regularize the
adjudicative process, promulgated detailed regulations. These
regulations establish a “sequential evaluation
process” to determine if a claimant is disabled.
See 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)(4).
Under this process, the Commissioner must determine, in
sequence, the following: (1) whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe impairment(s)
(i.e., one that significantly limits his ability to
perform work-related functions); (3) whether the severe
impairment meets or equals the medical criteria of Appendix
1, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P; (4) considering the
Commissioner's determination of claimant's RFC,
whether the claimant can perform his past relevant work; and
(5) if the claimant cannot perform the tasks required of his
prior work, the ALJ must decide if the claimant can do other
work in the national economy in view of his RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
claimant is entitled to benefits only if unable to perform
other work. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 142
(1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f), (g).
reviewing the ALJ's findings, this Court must ask if
substantial evidence supports those findings. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971). The ALJ's factual findings are
conclusive if “substantial evidence consisting of
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion exists.” Keeton v.
Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066
(11th Cir. 1994) (citation and quotations omitted). The Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment
for that of the ALJ even if it finds the evidence
preponderates against the ALJ's decision. See
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir.
1983). The Commissioner's “failure to apply the
correct law or to provide the reviewing court with sufficient
reasoning for determining the proper legal analysis has been
conducted mandates reversal.” Keeton, 21 F.3d
at 1066 (citations omitted).