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Lowrance v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

January 25, 2019

PHILIP LOWRANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHRISTOPHER L. RAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Philip Lowrance seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

         I. GOVERNING STANDARDS

         In social security cases, courts

. . . review the Commissioner's decision for substantial evidence. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). . . . “We may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute our judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (quotation and brackets omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, this Court must affirm, even if the proof preponderates against it.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted).

Mitchell v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2014).

         The burden of proving disability lies with the claimant. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005). The ALJ applies

. . . a five-step, “sequential” process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1). If an ALJ finds a claimant disabled or not disabled at any given step, the ALJ does not go on to the next step. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4). At the first step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). At the second step, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment or combination of impairments for which the claimant allegedly suffers is “severe.” Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). At the third step, the ALJ must decide whether the claimant's severe impairments meet or medically equal a listed impairment. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If not, the ALJ must then determine at step four whether the claimant has the RFC[1] to perform her past relevant work. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform her past relevant work, the ALJ must determine at step five whether the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, considering the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. An ALJ may make this determination either by applying the Medical Vocational Guidelines or by obtaining the testimony of a [Vocational Expert (VE)].

Stone v. Comm'r. of Soc. Sec. Admin., 596 F. App'x, 878, 879 (11th Cir. 2015) (footnote added).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Lowrance, who was 29 years old when his disability application was denied, alleges disability beginning September 28, 2013. Tr. 13, 166. He graduated from high school and has past work experience as an electrician helper. Tr. 23, 190-92, 237. After a hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 13-24. He found that Lowrance's bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), neurodevelopmental disorder, and cannabis use disorder constituted severe impairments but did not meet or medically equal a Listing. Tr. 15-19. Based on the evidence of record, the ALJ found that he retained the RFC for the full range of work at all exertional levels except that Lowrance

can only do unskilled, routine, repetitive tasks and instructions; can have no more than occasional interaction with coworkers, supervisors, or the public; can face no more than occasional changes in the workplace environment and routine; and cannot perform assembly line, fast paced, high production, quota type work.

Tr. 19.

         Plaintiff, he determined, was incapable of performing his past relevant work but could perform the requirements of representative work as a marker, cleaner, and press operator, all light work with an SVP[2] of 2. Tr. 24. Lowrance disagrees, arguing that the ALJ erred in in his evaluation of ...


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