United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
contests the decision of Administrative Law Judge John
Maclean (“the ALJ” or “ALJ Maclean”)
denying her claim for Supplement Security Income. Plaintiff
urges the Court to reverse and remand the ALJ's decision.
Doc. 15 at 16. Defendant asserts the Commissioner's
decision should be affirmed. Doc. 16 at 13. For the reasons
which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court
AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision. I
also RECOMMEND the Court
DIRECT the Clerk of Court to
CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate
judgment of dismissal.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on June
18, 2013, alleging that she became disabled on June 1, 2013,
due to scoliosis, thyroid disease, depression, back and joint
pain, and an ovarian tumor. Doc. 9-2 at 11; Doc. 9-3 at 3.
After her claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a
hearing. On January 21, 2016, ALJ Maclean conducted a hearing
at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared
and testified. James Waddington, a vocational expert, also
appeared at the hearing. ALJ Maclean conducted a supplemental
video hearing on August 2, 2016, at which Kim E. Bennett,
another vocational expert, appeared. Doc. 9-2 at 11. ALJ
Maclean found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act (“the Act”)
since June 18, 2013, 2013. Id. 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.
Id. at 2.
born on October 7, 1971, was 44 years old when ALJ Maclean
issued his final decision. Id. at 20, 21. She has a
limited education. Id. at 20, 40. Plaintiff has no
past relevant work experience. Id. at 20.
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 [her] physical or mental impairment or impairments
are of such severity that [s]he is not only unable to do
[her] previous work but cannot, considering [her] age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
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 meets the definition of disability. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987).
first step determines if the claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” Id. 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. Id. at 140-41. If the
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments is
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 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 to determine if the impairment precludes the claimant
from performing past relevant work, i.e., whether the
claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform her
past relevant work. Id.; Stone v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 503 Fed.Appx. 692, 693 (11th Cir. 2013). A
claimant's residual functional capacity “is an
assessment . . . of the claimant's remaining ability to
do work despite [her] 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 her past relevant work, the
final step of the evaluation process determines whether she
is able to make adjustments to other work in the national
economy, considering her 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 June 18, 2013, her application date.
Doc. 9-2 at 13. At step two, ALJ Maclean determined Plaintiff
had degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, degenerative joint
disease of the bilateral knees, bursitis of the right
shoulder, and obesity, conditions considered
“severe” under the Regulations because
“they cause more than minimal functional
limitations” in Plaintiff's ability to perform
basic work activities. Id. However, at the third
step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did
not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed
impairment. Id. at 16. The ALJ found Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity to perform work at the
sedentary exertional level with few changes and with the
following exceptions: occasional climbing of ramps and stairs
but no ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no working at heights;
occasional working around hazards but no working around
vibrating machinery; occasional stooping, crouching, and
kneeling but no crawling; and occasional balancing, contact
with the public, co-workers, and supervisors, and lifting
overhead. Id. at 17. At the next step, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff had no past relevant work experience, as
Plaintiff's past work did not meet the qualifications for
past relevant work at substantial gainful activity levels.
Id. at 20. The ALJ concluded at the fifth and final
step that Plaintiff could perform the jobs of addressor,
final assembler, and table worker, all of which are jobs at
the sedentary exertional level and which exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Id. at 20-21.
raises three issues. First, Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred
in finding she did not have severe mental impairments and
relying on the consultative examining psychologist, who was
not given evidence of Plaintiff's vocational and
employment history. Doc. 15 at 3-9. Second, Plaintiff asserts
the ALJ erred on failing to find Plaintiff had a severe
impairment of her cervical spine that affected her ability to
work on a regular, sustained basis. Id. at 9-12.
Finally, Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by giving weight to
Dr. Andre Haynes's consultative examination because Dr.
Haynes did not review MRIs and CTs scans ALJ Maclean ordered
to be presented at the time of the examination. Id.