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Searcy v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

January 12, 2015

CHARICE SEARCY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For CHARICE SEARCY, Plaintiff: DANIEL LEWIS WILDER, Emmett L. Goodman, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEYS, MACON, GA.

For CAROLYN W COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant: BERNARD SNELL, H RANDOLPH ADERHOLD, JR, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, MACON, GA.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Charles H. Weigle, United States Magistrate Judge.

Social Security Appeal

This is a review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Charice Searcy's application for benefits. Because the Commissioner's decision is based on the application of proper legal standards and is supported by substantial evidence, it is RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff claims to suffer from hypertension; high blood pressure; diabetes; breast, hip and leg pain; bipolar disorder; osteoarthritis; and back pain, which may stem, in part, from a November 2007 motor vehicle accident. (R. 47, 410). Plaintiff applied for Title II and Title XVI benefits in August 2009, but her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, (R. 88-89), and a reviewing administrative law judge (" ALJ") found Plaintiff " not disabled" in May 2012. (R. 22-34). The Appeals Council denied review in Plaintiff's case in December 2013, (R. 1-4), and Plaintiff now seeks review before this Court, arguing that the ALJ erred by (1) discounting the opinions of Dr. Carlos Giron and Dr. Foster Brin; and by (2) making vocational findings at steps four and five that were inconsistent with her proposed " Specific Vocational Preparation" rating. Because the record does not support Plaintiff's arguments, it is recommended that the Court affirm.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is limited to a determination of whether that decision is supported by substantial evidence, as well as whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). " Substantial evidence" is defined as " more than a scintilla, " and as " such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. The Eleventh Circuit has explained that reviewing courts may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute their judgment for that of the Commissioner. Id. Rather, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, that decision must be affirmed even if the evidence preponderates against it.

EVALUATION OF DISAIBLITY

Social Security claimants are " disabled" if they are 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. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

The Social Security Regulations outline a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled: " (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of impairments; (4) based on a residual functional capacity (" RFC") assessment, whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience." Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v); 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v)).

DISABILITY EVALUATION IN THIS CASE

Following the five-step sequential evaluation process, the reviewing ALJ made the following findings in this case. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2008, her alleged onset date. (R. 24). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: " pulmonary hypertension, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, obesity, cervical spondylosis with stenosis, lumbar radiculitis with stenosis[, ] arthritis, bipolar disorder, [and] panic disorder." (R. 24). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or ...


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