United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
STEPHEN HYLES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Social Security Commissioner, by adoption of the
Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ's) determination,
denied Plaintiff's application for child's disability
insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
finding that she was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act and Regulations. Plaintiff contends that
the Commissioner's decision was in error and seeks review
under the relevant provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). All administrative remedies have
been exhausted. Both parties filed their written consents for
all proceedings to be conducted by the United States
Magistrate Judge, including the entry of a final judgment
directly appealable to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(3).
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to a determination of whether it is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards
were applied. Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 1000
(11th Cir. 1987) (per curiam). “Substantial evidence is
something more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. If the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, this court must affirm,
even if the proof preponderates against it.” Dyer
v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The court's role in
reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is a
narrow one. The court may neither decide facts, re-weigh
evidence, nor substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208,
1211 (11th Cir. 2005). It must, however, decide if the
Commissioner applied the proper standards in reaching a
decision. Harrell v. Harris, 610 F.2d 355, 359 (5th
Cir. 1980) (per curiam). The court must scrutinize the entire
record to determine the reasonableness of the
Commissioner's factual findings. Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). However,
even if the evidence preponderates against the
Commissioner's decision, it must be affirmed if
substantial evidence supports it. Id.
Plaintiff bears the initial burden of proving that she is
unable to perform her previous work. Jones v. Bowen,
810 F.2d 1001 (11th Cir. 1986). The Plaintiff's burden is
a heavy one and is so stringent that it has been described as
bordering on the unrealistic. Oldham v. Schweiker,
660 F.2d 1078, 1083 (5th Cir. 1981). A Plaintiff seeking Social
Security disability benefits must demonstrate that she
suffers from an impairment that prevents her from engaging in
any substantial gainful activity for a twelve-month period.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). In addition to meeting the
requirements of these statutes, in order to be eligible for
disability payments, a Plaintiff must meet the requirements
of the Commissioner's regulations promulgated pursuant to
the authority given in the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1 et seq.
the Regulations, the Commissioner uses a five-step procedure
to determine if a Plaintiff is disabled. Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir. 2004); 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). First, the Commissioner
determines whether the Plaintiff is working. Id. If
not, the Commissioner determines whether the Plaintiff has an
impairment which prevents the performance of basic work
activities. Id. Second, the Commissioner determines
the severity of the Plaintiff's impairment or combination
of impairments. Id. Third, the Commissioner
determines whether the Plaintiff's severe impairment(s)
meets or equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1 of Part
404 of the Regulations (the “Listing”).
Id. Fourth, the Commissioner determines whether the
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity can meet the
physical and mental demands of past work. Id. Fifth
and finally, the Commissioner determines whether the
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and past work experience prevent the performance of any other
work. In arriving at a decision, the Commissioner must
consider the combined effects of all of the alleged
impairments, without regard to whether each, if considered
separately, would be disabling. Id. The
Commissioner's failure to apply correct legal standards
to the evidence is grounds for reversal. Id.
Whether the ALJ assigned appropriate weight to
Plaintiff's treating physician.
Whether the ALJ properly determined that Counselor Hale is
not an acceptable medical source.
Bobbi Antonieya Jones filed applications for child's
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income on July 10, 2012, alleging disability beginning on the
same date. Her applications were denied initially on November
2, 2012 and on reconsideration on March 5, 2013. She filed a
written request for an evidentiary hearing before an
administrative law judge (ALJ) on March 13, 2013 and the
hearing was held on August 11, 2014. Plaintiff appeared at
the hearing with her attorney and gave testimony, as did an
impartial vocational expert (VE). Tr. 17. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision denying her claims on November 7, 2014.
Tr. 14-32. Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals Council on
December 22, 2014, but was denied on May 7, 2016. Tr. 7-13;
1-6. Having exhausted the administrative remedies available
to her under the Social Security Act she now seeks judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny her
of Facts and Evidence
the ALJ issued his decision, Plaintiff was twenty years of
age. She has a high school education and no past relevant
work. Tr. 43, 203, 222, 236. In conducting the five-step
sequential analysis set out in the Commissioner's
regulations for the evaluation of disability claims, the ALJ
found at step two that Plaintiff has severe impairments of
anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and
autism spectrum disorder/Asperger's type. Finding No. 3,
Tr. 19. Next, he established at step three that her
impairments considered both alone and in combination with one
another neither meet nor medically equal one of the listed
impairments found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. Finding No. 4, Tr. 20-21. Between steps three and four,
the ALJ formulated a residual functional capacity assessment
(RFC) which permits Plaintiff to engage in a full range of
work at all exertional levels with restrictions to simple,
routine, repetitive tasks, occasional changes in the work
setting and with occasional interaction with the general
public and coworkers, but no fast-paced or high production
demands. Finding No. 5, Tr. 21-27. At step four the ALJ found
Plaintiff to have no past relevant work. Finding No. 6, Tr.
27. At step five he posed hypothetical questions to the ...