United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
contests the decision of Administrative Law Judge John H.
Maclean, (“the ALJ” or “ALJ Maclean”)
denying her claim for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income
benefits. Plaintiff urges the Court to remand this case for a
proper determination of the evidence. Defendant asserts the
Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. For the
reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court AFFIRM the
Commissioner's decision. I also RECOMMEND that the Court
DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case.
filed an application for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income benefits
on November 16, 2012, alleging that she became disabled on
July 1, 2012, due to chronic migraine headaches, as well as
back, neck, and feet impairments. (Doc. 9-5, p. 2; Doc. 9-6,
p. 6.) After her claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a
hearing. On November 6, 2014, ALJ Maclean conducted a video
hearing at which Plaintiff, who was represented by Andrew S.
Youngman, a non-attorney representative, appeared and
testified in Waycross, Georgia, while the ALJ presided in
Savannah, Georgia. (Doc. 9-2, p. 19.) Kenneth L. Bennett, a
vocational expert, also appeared at the hearing.
(Id.) ALJ Maclean found that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
(Id. at p. 28.) The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision,
and the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
Commissioner for judicial review. (Id. at p. 2.)
born on August 20, 1979, was thirty-five (35) years old when
ALJ Maclean issued his final decision. She has a high school
education. (Doc. 9-6, p. 7.) Plaintiff's past relevant
work experience includes employment as a cashier/checker,
nurse assistant, and dispatcher. (Id.)
The ALJ's Findings
to the Act, the Commissioner has established a five-step
process to determine whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520 & 416.920; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). The first step
determines if the claimant is engaged in “substantial
gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140.
If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity,
then benefits are immediately denied. Id. If the
claimant is not engaged in such activity, then the second
inquiry is whether the claimant has a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments as defined by the
“severity regulation.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(c) & 416.920(c); Yuckert, 482 U.S. at
140-41. If the claimant's impairment or combination of
impairments is severe, then the evaluation proceeds to step
three. The third step requires a determination of whether the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed in the Code of Federal Regulations
(“the Regulations”) and acknowledged by the
Commissioner as sufficiently severe to preclude substantial
gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d) &
416.920(d); 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P. App. 1; Phillips
v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004). If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the plaintiff is presumed disabled. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
impairment does not meet or equal one of the listed
impairments, the sequential evaluation proceeds to the fourth
step to determine if the impairment precludes the claimant
from performing past relevant work, i.e., whether the
claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform her past relevant work.
Id.; Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 503
F.App'x 692, 693 (11th Cir. 2013). A claimant's RFC
“is an assessment . . . of the claimant's remaining
ability to do work despite h[er] impairments.”
Id. at 693-94 (ellipsis in original) (quoting
Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir.
1997)). If the claimant is unable to perform her past
relevant work, the final step of the evaluation process
determines whether she is able to make adjustments to other
work in the national economy, considering her age, education,
and work experience. Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1239.
Disability benefits will be awarded only if the claimant is
unable to perform other work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at
instant case, the ALJ followed this sequential process to
determine that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset
date of July 1, 2012, through the date of ALJ Maclean's
decision on January 15, 2015. (Doc. 9-2, p. 21.) At Step Two,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had migraine headaches,
obesity, and anxiety/depression, conditions considered
“severe” under the severity regulation. However,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's medically
determinable impairments did not meet or medically equal a
listed impairment under the Regulations. (Id. at p.
22) ALJ Maclean also determined Plaintiff suffers from
bilateral foot pain, hypertension, and low back pain, but
concluded these conditions were non-severe impairments.
(Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC,
through the date of his decision, to perform light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),
except that Plaintiff should perform simple, repetitive, and
routine work; interact with the public, co-workers, and
supervisors occasionally; be required to do no fast-paced
work; occasionally flex the neck; should not work around
hazardous machinery; can occasionally stoop; and can
frequently crawl, kneel, and crouch. (Id. at p. 24.)
At the next step, ALJ Maclean noted Plaintiff was not able to
perform her past relevant work. (Id. at p. 27.) The
ALJ concluded at the fifth and final step that Plaintiff
could perform the jobs of cafeteria attendant and cleaner,
all of which are light work with a Specific Vocational
Preparation of 2, and exist in significant numbers in the
national economy. (Id. at p. 28.)
contends the ALJ erred by failing to rule on her post hearing
objections regarding the reliability of the vocational
expert's testimony. (Doc. 11, p. 3.) Specifically,
Plaintiff avers that the vocational expert testified that
Plaintiff could perform jobs inconsistent with the
limitations noted in her RFC and that the ALJ failed to
address this inconsistency. Next, Plaintiff contends the ALJ
erred when he found Plaintiff's migraine headaches to be
a “severe impairment, ” yet did not evaluate that
condition under the appropriate listing at Step Three.
Finally, Plaintiff avers the ALJ erred by failing to include
any migraine-related limitation in his RFC finding.
(Id. at p. 6.)
Standard of Review
well-established that judicial review of social security
cases is limited to questions of whether the
Commissioner's factual findings are supported by
“substantial evidence, ” and whether the
Commissioner has applied appropriate legal standards.
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th
Cir. 1991); Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529
(11th Cir. 1990). A reviewing court does not “decide
facts anew, reweigh the evidence or substitute” its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). ...