United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division
GARRY E. PRESLEY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Social Security Appeal
Charles H. Weigle United States Magistrate Judge
This is a review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Garry E. Presley’s claim for period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. Because the Commissioner’s final decision is supported by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards, it is hereby RECOMMENDED that the decision be AFFIRMED.
At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was 61 years old. Plaintiff suffered from the non-severe impairments of depression, anxiety, and left foot fracture. Prior to the alleged onset date of February 5, 2008, Plaintiff worked as a truck driver and a roofer. On June 25, 2009, Plaintiff applied for period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. His applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Following an administrative hearing on July 15, 2011, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ’s written decision. On April 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Review of the Commissioner’s decision is restricted to whether the decision “is supported by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. Under this limited standard of review, a reviewing court “‘may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner].’” Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n. 8 (11th Cir. 2004), quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Where substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s factual findings exists, reviewing courts cannot overturn those findings even if other substantial evidence exists that is contrary to the ALJ’s factual findings. Barron v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991). Even so, the failure to apply the correct legal standards or to provide a sufficient factual basis for the reviewing court to determine whether the correct legal standards have been applied is grounds for reversal. Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982).
EVALUATION OF DISABILITY
Persons are “disabled” for purposes of receiving benefits under the Social Security Act if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which is expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The claimant bears the burden of proving his disability. Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
When analyzing the issue of disability, the Commissioner must follow a five-step sequential evaluation procedure. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). First, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant currently is engaging in substantial gainful activity. Second, the Commissioner considers the medical severity of the claimant’s impairments. Third, the Commissioner considers whether the medical severity of the claimant’s impairments meets or equals the severity of one or more of the specified impairments in the listing of impairments and meets the duration requirement.
The Commissioner next assesses the claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), which is defined as “the most you can still do despite your limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1). Fourth, based on the RFC assessment, the Commissioner evaluates the claimant’s ability to return to past relevant work despite the claimant’s impairments. Fifth, the Commissioner determines whether there are a sufficient number of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform in light of his RFC, age, education, and work experience.
The Commissioner’s final decision must be affirmed because the determination that Plaintiff is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards. According to Plaintiff, the Commissioner’s decision is flawed for two reasons. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to apply the correct legal standards at step two of the five-step sequential evaluation procedure when assessing the severity of Plaintiff’s mental and physical impairments. Second, Plaintiff contends that remand is warranted under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) because he has identified new, material evidence that he has good cause for not submitting at the administrative level. As discussed below, however, review of the complete administrative record establishes that the ALJ properly evaluated ...