United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
RAVEN D. MACK, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
CHARLES H. WEIGLE, Magistrate Judge.
This is a review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Raven D. Mack's application for benefits. In accordance with the analysis below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.
Plaintiff applied for Title II and Title XVI benefits in July 2010, alleging disability due to "symptomatic HIV, " mood and affective disorders, and degenerative disorders of the back. (R. 55-58). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, and in April 2012, a hearing was held before a reviewing administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (Doc. 11-2). At that hearing, Plaintiff testified and the ALJ inquired about Plaintiff's medications, and their resulting side effects. (R. 40-43). Plaintiff alleged that his medications cause "diarrhea a couple times a week, " that they sometimes cause Plaintiff to become disoriented, that they impair Plaintiff's concentration, and that they cause drowsiness. (R. 41-43). On June 22, 2012, though, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was only partially credible with regard to his alleged symptoms, and also that Plaintiff was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R. 12-22). The Appeals Council denied review in Plaintiff's case on February 26, 2014, (R. 1-3), and Plaintiff now seeks review before this Court, arguing that the ALJ erred by failing to adequately assess Plaintiff's alleged side effects. Because the record does not support Plaintiff's argument, and because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
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 May 11, 2010, his alleged onset date. (R. 14). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: "human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, bipolar disorder and a personality disorder with antisocial features." (R. 14). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. 15). Therefore, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC and determined that Plaintiff could perform:
[L]ight work... with exceptions. The claimant can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently and can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; however, the claimant cannot climb ropes, ladders or scaffolds. Furthermore, the claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights. Moreover, the claimant is limited to unskilled work tasks with no ongoing contact with the general public or team-type work with co-workers.
At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. (R. 20). At step five, though, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform the requirements of representative occupations like "Construction Worker II, " "Cashier II, " or "Maintenance-Mechanic Helper." (R. 20). As a result, the ALJ ...