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 R.
Mason (“the ALJ” or “ALJ Mason”)
denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff
urges the Court to reverse the ALJ's decision and remand
for an award of benefits or, in the alternative, remand for a
new hearing. Defendant asserts that the Commissioner's
decision should be affirmed. For the reasons which follow, I
RECOMMEND the Court AFFIRM
the Commissioner's decision and DIRECT
the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and
enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on July
31, 2012, alleging disability beginning on August 1, 2007,
due to “stroke, difficulty balancing, hip problems,
high blood pressure, [and] depression.” (Doc. 10-3, pp.
2.) After his claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a
hearing. On May 29, 2015, ALJ Mason conducted a hearing in
Savannah, Georgia, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by
counsel, appeared and testified. (Doc. 10-2, p. 13.) James
Waddington, a vocational expert, also appeared at the
hearing. (Id.) ALJ Mason found that Plaintiff was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 301, et seq. (“the
Act”). 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. (Doc. 10-2, pp. 2-4.)
born on March 9, 1980, was thirty-five (35) years old when
ALJ Mason rendered his decision. (Doc. 10-2, p. 23.)
Plaintiff completed the ninth grade and does not have a
General Equivalency Diploma (“GED”). (Doc. 10-2,
p. 34.) Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
involved construction. (Doc. 10-2, pp. 40-41; Doc. 10-6, pp.
The ALJ's Findings
II of the Act defines “disability” as the
“inability 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 Act qualifies the definition of disability
An individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy[.]
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). Pursuant 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
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 considered 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. At Step Four, a determination is made as to whether the
impairment precludes the claimant from performing past
relevant work, i.e., whether the claimant has the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform past
relevant work. Id.; Stone v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 503 F. App'x 692, 693 (11th Cir. 2013). A
claimant's residual functional capacity “is an
assessment . . . of the claimant's remaining ability to
do work despite his 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 his past relevant work, the
final step of the evaluation process determines whether he is
able to make adjustments to other work in the national
economy, considering his 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 142.
instant case, the ALJ followed this sequential process to
determine that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity since July 31, 2012, the application date.
(Doc. 10-2, p. 15.) At Step Two, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the following conditions considered
“severe” under the “severity regulation,
” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c): history of a
cerebrovascular accident; coronary artery disease and status
post myocardial infarction; chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease; dementia; a cognitive disorder; and history of
substance abuse. (Id.) At the next step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's medically determinable
impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment under the Regulations. (Id. at pp.
15-17.) ALJ Mason found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform
sedentary work, except he cannot engage in constant reaching
or overhead reaching with the left upper extremity and is
limited to repetitive, short cycle work. (Id. at p.
17.) Additionally, the ALJ limited Plaintiff from working in
environments with concentrated exposure to dust, fumes,
gases, and poor ventilation and to avoid unprotected heights
and dangerous machinery. (Id.) At Step Four, ALJ
Mason noted Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant
work in construction. (Id. at p. 21.) However, the
ALJ concluded at the fifth and final step that Plaintiff
could perform the jobs of semiconductor assembler,
surveillance systems monitor, and credit reference clerk, all
of which are sedentary jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy. (Id. at p. 22.)
contends that the ALJ did not properly consider whether he
met the criteria for Listing 12.05C for intellectual
disability. (Doc. 12, pp. 8-9.) Plaintiff also contends that
the ALJ failed to incorporate his mental limitations within
the RFC. (Id. at pp. 7-8.) Finally, Plaintiff
alleges that the ALJ failed to calculate Plaintiff's work
capacity under a regional standard. (Id. at p. 10.)
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). Even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
factual findings, the court must affirm a decision supported
by substantial evidence. Id.
substantial evidence must do more than create a suspicion of
the existence of the fact to be proved. The evidence relied
upon must be relevant evidence which a reasonable mind would
find adequate to support a conclusion. Ingram v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260
(11th Cir. 2007). The substantial evidence standard requires
more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance of
evidence. Dyer, 395 F.3d at 1210. In its review, the
court must also determine whether the ALJ or Commissioner
applied appropriate legal standards. Failure ...