United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Samone Bell appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security denying her application for Child
Insurance Benefits (“CIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“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 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
consideration in accordance with this opinion.
applied for CIB and SSI on April 11, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of January 1, 2000. Tr.
(“R.”), pp. 86, 197. Plaintiff was six years old
at her alleged disability onset date and twenty-three years
old at the time the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued the decision currently under
consideration. R. 94, 197.
applied for benefits based on allegations of a learning
disability. R. 201. Plaintiff graduated from high school in
2013 with a special education diploma. R. 322. Plaintiff has
never worked. R. 93, 322.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
application initially, R. 99-105, and on reconsideration, R.
110-15. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, R.
121-24, and the ALJ held a hearing on September 11, 2015, R.
15-34. The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was not
represented by counsel, as well as from Plaintiff's
mother. Id. On March 2, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision. R. 83-98.
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 January 1, 2000, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971
2. The claimant has the following severe impairment:
borderline intellectual functioning (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 a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following non-exertional
limitations: the claimant is able to meet the basic mental
demands of competitive, remunerative, unskilled work,
including the abilities (on a sustained basis) to understand,
carry out, and remember simple instructions; to respond
appropriately to supervising, coworkers, and usual work
situations; and to deal with changes in a routine work
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
(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
January 1, 2000, through March 2, 2016 (the date of the
ALJ's decision) (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, R. 7-11, 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.
argues the Commissioner's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to: (1) properly
evaluate Plaintiff's credibility; (2) take testimony from
a vocational expert instead of relying on the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines; (3) find Plaintiff's
impairment met or equaled Listing 12.05C; (4) and properly
determine Plaintiff's RFC. Pl.'s Br., doc. no. 12.
The Commissioner maintains the decision to deny Plaintiff
benefits is supported by substantial evidence and should
therefore be affirmed. Comm'r's Br., doc. no. 17.
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 ...