United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jackson appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Social Security
Insurance (“SSI”) 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 the Commissioner's final
decision be AFFIRMED, this civil action be
CLOSED, and a final judgment be
ENTERED in favor of the Commissioner.
applied for DIB and SSI on May 12, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of November 27, 2012. Tr.
(“R.”), pp. 270-71. Plaintiff was thirty-six
years old on his alleged disability onset date and forty
years old at the time the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued the decision under consideration.
R. 39, 80. Plaintiff initially applied for benefits based on
allegations of a back injury. R. 80, 89, 98. Plaintiff
completed ninth grade, and prior to his alleged disability,
Plaintiff had accrued a relevant work history as a
construction laborer, fast food cook, and dishwasher. R. 37,
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications initially and on reconsideration. R. 80-123,
125-147. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, R.
165-66, and the ALJ held a hearing on August 9, 2016. R.
47-79. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from
Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, as well as from
Joel Greenberg, a Vocational Expert. Id. On October
26, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 22-39.
the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520 and 416.920, the ALJ found:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 27, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: asthma,
lumbar degenerative disc, obstructive sleep apnea, cervical
degenerative disc disease, and major depressive disorder. (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),
except occasional ladders, ropes and scaffolds; occasional
balance; occasional stooping; the individual would be limited
to frequent all other posturals [sic]; would need to avoid
concentrated exposure to hazards and pulmonary irritants;
would be limited to one to two step tasks; off task
approximately 5% of the day with low stress work defined as
occasional changes and occasional decision making; would need
to use a cane for prolonged ambulation and uneven terrain;
would need to alternate positions at will and that would
occur approximately every 30 minutes; the claimant would be
able to stay on task while alternating positions. Thus, the
claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
5. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that the claimant can
perform, including ampoule sealer, touch up screener, and
final assembler (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569,
404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)). Therefore, the
claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from November 27, 2012, through October
26, 2016 (the date of the ALJ's decision) (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review, R. 1-6, 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
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
legal standards were in fact applied, the Court must reverse
the decision. Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387,
1389 (11th Cir. 1982).
argues the ALJ improperly weighed Plaintiff's credibility
regarding his subjective complaints in formulating
Plaintiff's RFC because (1) the ALJ did not specify which
subjective allegations were contrary to which specific
evidence; (2) the medical evidence supported Plaintiff's
subjective limitations; and (2) the ALJ failed to explain how
Plaintiff's minimal daily activities conflicted with his
subjective limitations. See generally (Pl.'s
Br., doc. no. 10; Pl.'s Rep., doc. no. 13). As explained
below, the ALJ sufficiently stated the reasons she did not
find Plaintiff's subjective complaints completely
credible in formulating ...