United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Pooler, Jr., appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social
Security Act. Upon consideration of the briefs submitted by
both parties, the record evidence, and the relevant statutory
and case law, the Court REPORTS and
RECOMMENDS pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), the Commissioner's final decision
be REVERSED and the case be
REMANDED to the Commissioner for further
applied for DIB in March of 2012, alleging a disability onset
date of March 13, 2011. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 164-66.
Plaintiff's last insured date for purposes of the DIB
application is December 31, 2016. R. 164, 186. Plaintiff was
forty-two years old on his alleged disability onset date.
Plaintiff applied for benefits based on allegations of
cardiomyopathy and high cholesterol. R. 168. Plaintiff has a
twelfth grade education, and, prior to his alleged
disability, Plaintiff had accrued relevant work history as a
sales manager in a furniture store. R. 168-69.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications initially, R. 82, and on reconsideration, R. 87.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), R. 91, and the ALJ held a hearing
on February 3, 2015. R. 32-55. At the hearing, the ALJ heard
testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, as
well as from Roger S. Decker, a Vocational Expert
(“VE”). Id. On May 8, 2015, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision. R. 12-26.
the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520,
the ALJ found:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 13, 2011, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
sciatica, degenerative disc disease, cardiac problems,
cardiomyopathy with ablation, and high blood pressure (20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
4. The claimant has the RFC to perform sedentary work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) with
exceptions. The claimant would need [the] opportunity
to alternate between sitting and standing up to once every
1/2 hour while continuing to work. He can stand and walk two
hours out of eight hours. He can lift and carry a maximum of
10 pounds. There should be no use of foot controls. He can
only occasionally climb, balance, kneel, stoop, crouch, and
crawl. There should be no work on ladders, ropes, scaffolds,
or at unprotected heights. Thus, the claimant is capable of
performing past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review, R. 1-3, the Commissioner's decision
became “final” for the purpose of judicial
review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff then filed this
civil action requesting reversal or remand of that adverse
decision. Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to
find Plaintiff's obesity was a severe impairment; (2)
failing to address Plaintiff's obesity in developing his
RFC; (3) giving the opinion of Dr. Kristen Hampton,
Plaintiff's treating physician, little weight; and (4)
finding Plaintiff not credible. See doc. no. 8
(“Pl.'s Br.”). The Commissioner maintains the
decision to deny Plaintiff benefits is supported by
substantial evidence and should therefore be affirmed.
See doc. no. 11 (“Comm'r's
review of social security cases is narrow and limited to the
following questions: (1) whether the Commissioner's
findings are supported by substantial evidence, and (2)
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir.
1997). When considering whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing
court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Moore
v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005);
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th
Cir. 1991). Notwithstanding this measure of deference, the
Court remains obligated to scrutinize the whole record to
determine whether substantial evidence supports each
essential administrative finding. Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
Commissioner's factual findings should be affirmed if
there is substantial evidence to support them. Barron v.
Sullivan, 924 F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991).
Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance: ‘[i]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239). If the Court finds
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
factual findings, it must uphold the Commissioner even if the
evidence preponderates in favor of the claimant. Crawford
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th
Cir. 2004). Finally, the Commissioner's findings of fact
must be grounded in the entire record; a decision that
focuses on one aspect of the evidence and disregards other
contrary evidence is not based upon substantial evidence.
McCruter v. Bowen, 791 F.2d 1544, 1548 (11th Cir.
deference accorded the Commissioner's findings of fact
does not extend to her conclusions of law, which enjoy no
presumption of validity. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d
1233, 1236 (11th Cir. 1991) (holding judicial review of
Commissioner's legal conclusions are not subject to
substantial evidence standard). If the Commissioner fails
either to apply correct legal standards or to provide the
reviewing court with the means to determine whether correct