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Morris v. Saul

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

November 21, 2019

VIVIAN MORRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          THOMAS G. WILSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The plaintiff in this case seeks judicial review of the denial of her claim for supplemental security income payments.[2] Because the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, is supported by substantial evidence and contains no reversible error, I recommend that the decision be affirmed.

         I.

         The plaintiff, who was fifty-two years old at the time of the administrative hearing and who has an eleventh-grade education (Tr. 139), has worked as a cashier and housekeeper (Tr. 140). She filed a claim for supplemental security income payments, alleging that she became disabled due to "COPD, diabetes, dieabetic [sic] neuropathy legs, obesity, arthritis in back [and] diverticulitis" (Tr. 296). The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration.

         At her request, the plaintiff received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge. The law judge found that the plaintiff had severe impairments of obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, neuropathy, and back impairments (Tr. 13). Notably, he found that the plaintiffs diverticulitis was a non-severe impairment (Tr. 14). He concluded that, with those impairments, the plaintiff was limited to light work with no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds and only occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling and climbing of ramps and stairs, but must avoid concentrated exposure to irritants, such as fumes, odors, dust, and gases (Tr. 18). The law judge determined that the plaintiff had no past relevant work (Tr. 21). .However, based upon the testimony of a vocational expert, the law judge found that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the plaintiff could perform, such as inspector, office helper, and packer (Tr. 22). Consequently, the law judge decided on November 1, 2017, that the plaintiff was not disabled (id.).

         The plaintiff sought review of that decision from the Appeals Council. With that request, the plaintiff submitted additional evidence, some of which pre-dated the law judge's decision, and some post-dated it (Tr. 2). The Appeals Council stated that "[w]e find this evidence does not show a reasonable probability that it would change the outcome of the decision" (id.). Thus, the Appeals Council denied review, so that the law judge's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner (Tr. 1).

         II.

         In order to be entitled to supplemental security income, 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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. 1382c(a)(3)(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. 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         A 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), cert, denied. 544 U.S. 1035 (2005).

         It is, 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).

         Therefore, 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, must satisfy itself that the proper legal standards were applied and legal requirements were met. Lamb v. Bpwen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988).

         III.

         A. . The plaintiff purports to assert two challenges to the administrative decision (Doc. 27, p. 2):

(1) The Appeals Council's decision that the evidence submitted to it, subsequent to the Administrative Law Judge decision, does not show a reasonable probability that it would change the outcome of the Administrative Law Judge decision, was in error; (2) The Appeals Council's decision was in error in failing to find that evidence submitted to it, pertaining to the period of time after the Administrative Law Judge decision, was not material, and by failing to include language in the decision that if the claimant made a new application for benefits within 60 days from the date of ...

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