United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF
Antwain Lester appeals the decision of the Deputy
Commissioner for Operations denying his application for
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 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 SSI on May 5, 2014, alleging a disability onset
date of March 4, 2009. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 18, 216,
239. Plaintiff was twenty-six years old at his alleged
disability onset date and was thirty-three years old at the
time the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued
the decision currently under consideration. R. 29, 239.
applied for benefits based on allegations of multiple
physical injuries, including traumatic brain injury, from a
motorcycle accident, memory and hearing impairments, sleeping
disorder, depression, headaches, and pain. R. 243, 320.
Plaintiff alternately reported completing tenth or eleventh
grade, but had not obtained a GED. R. 66, 244, 673. Prior to
his alleged disability, Plaintiff had no past relevant work
under 20 C.F.R. § 416.965, but in November 2016, he was
working at a Krystal restaurant for approximately fifteen to
twenty hours per week. R. 27, 69, 100.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
application initially, R. 166-69, and on reconsideration, R.
173-76. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, R.
177-79, and the ALJ held a hearing on November 21, 2016. R.
54-115. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from
Plaintiff, who appeared with counsel, as well as from
Plaintiff's mother and Mary Cornelius, a Vocational
Expert. Id. On December 28, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision. R. 15-33.
the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 416.920,
the ALJ found:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 5, 2014, the application date (20 C.F.R.
§ 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
neurocognitive disorder, traumatic brain injury, psychotic
disorder, mood disorder and status-post fractures of the
right lower extremity (20 C.F.R. § 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. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925,
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform medium work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 416.967(c). The claimant can occasionally lift and
carry 50 pounds, and frequently lift and carry 25 pounds. He
is able to sit, stand, and walk for six hours in an
eight-hour workday. He is able to frequently kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He is able to
perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks and make simple
work-related decisions, however, he is able to maintain
concentration, persistence, and pace for periods of two
hours, perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular
attendance, and complete normal workday and workweek. He is
able to tolerate occasional changes in a routine work
setting. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 C.F.R.
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 hand packer, can filler, and food
preparation worker, all unskilled jobs with an SVP of
(20 C.F.R. §§ 416.969, and 416.969(a)). Therefore,
the claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, since May 5, 2014, the date the
application was filed (20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g)).
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, R. 1-5, 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 that the Commissioner's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ improperly
weighed the medical opinions in the record. See doc.
no. 11 (“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. 14.
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 ...