United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division
PAMELA J. KELLEY, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
ELIZABETH M. TIMOTHY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge
for disposition pursuant to the authority of 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, based on the parties' consent
to magistrate judge jurisdiction (see ECF Nos. 10,
11). It is now before the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) for
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
review of the record before this court, it is the opinion of
the undersigned that the findings of fact and determinations
of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence;
thus, the decision of the Commissioner should be affirmed.
26, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB alleging
disability beginning four days prior, on May 22, 2015 (tr.
Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration,
and thereafter she requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was
held on March 9, 2017, and on June 22, 2017, the ALJ issued a
decision finding Plaintiff “not disabled, ” as
defined under the Act, at any time through the date of the
decision (tr. 10-19). Plaintiff requested review by the
Appeals Council, which denied the request (tr. 1-6). Thus,
the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner, subject to review in this court. Ingram v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1262
(11th Cir. 2007). This appeal followed.
FINDINGS OF THE ALJ
denying Plaintiff's claim, the ALJ made the following
(1) Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the
Act through December 31, 2019;
(2) Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity
after May 22, 2015, the alleged onset date;
(3) Plaintiff has one severe impairment: degenerative disc
disease in the form of lumbar spondylosis with myelopathy;
(4) Plaintiff has no impairment or combination of impairments
that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 440, Subpart P, Appendix
(5) Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R.' 404.1567(b); and (6) Plaintiff
was able to perform her past relevant work as a daycare
teacher during the relevant period, as the requirements of
that work are consistent with her RFC; therefore, she was not
under a disability, as defined in the Act, from May 22, 2015,
through June 22, 2017, the date of the decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence in the record and was a result of application of
proper legal standards. Carnes v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d
1215, 1218 (11th Cir. 1991) (“[T]his Court may reverse
the decision of the [Commissioner] only when convinced that
it is not supported by substantial evidence or that proper
legal standards were not applied.”); see also Lewis
v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997);
Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
“A determination that is supported by substantial
evidence may be meaningless . . . if it is coupled with or
derived from faulty legal principles.” Boyd
v. Heckler, 704 F.2d 1207, 1209 (11th Cir. 1983),
superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Elam
v. R.R. Ret. Bd., 921 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1991).
As long as proper legal standards were applied, the
Commissioner's decision will not be disturbed if, in
light of the record as a whole, the decision appears to be
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Falge v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir.
1998); Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1439; Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995). Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla, but not a preponderance;
it is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would 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, 217 (1938)); Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1439. The court
may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
1990) (citations omitted). Even if the evidence preponderates
against the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be
affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. Sewell v.
Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986).
defines a disability as an “inability 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To qualify as a
disability, the physical or mental impairment must be so
severe that the claimant not only is unable to do her
previous work, “but cannot, considering [her] age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.” Id. at' 423(d)(2)(A). Pursuant
to 20 C.F.R.' 404.1520(a)-(g), the Commissioner analyzes
a disability claim in five steps:
1. If the claimant is performing substantial gainful
activity, she is not disabled.
2. If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful
activity, her impairments must be severe before she can be
3. If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful
activity and she has severe impairments that have lasted or
are expected to last for a continuous period of at least
twelve months, and if her impairments meet or medically equal
the criteria of any impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1, the claimant is presumed disabled
without further inquiry.
4. If the claimant's impairments do not prevent her from
doing her past relevant work, she is not disabled.
5. Even if the claimant's impairments prevent her from
performing her past relevant work, if other work exists in
significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates
her RFC and vocational factors, she is not disabled.
claimant bears the burden of establishing a severe impairment
that keeps her from performing past work. 20 C.F.R.'
404.1512. If the claimant establishes such an impairment, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show the
existence of other jobs in the national economy which, given
the claimant's impairments, the claimant can perform.
MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1052 (11th Cir.
1986). If the Commissioner carries this burden, the claimant
must then prove she cannot perform the work identified by the
Commissioner. Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011
(11th Cir. 1987).
PLAINTIFF'S PERSONAL, EMPLOYMENT, AND MEDICAL HISTORY
Personal and Employment History
time of the hearing before the ALJ on March 9, 2017,
Plaintiff was 56 years of age, stood 5'6'' tall,
and weighed 180 pounds (tr. 60, 62). She testified she had a
high school education and previous work as a teacher at a
childcare center where she cared for children aged four to
twelve (tr. 60, 64).
noted she can drive, bathe, and dress herself with some
assistance; shop for groceries; and cook in increments; but
she cannot do laundry, sweep, mop, or perform yard work (tr.
64-66). She testified she can stand for only ten minutes, has
pain when she walks two blocks, and is limited in what she
can carry (tr. 66, 71). She takes cyclobenzaprine,
Duloxetine, oxycodone, and Aleve for her back (tr. 63, 312).
Although these medications are helpful, they only decrease
her pain from a ten to a seven or eight on a ten-point scale,