United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
contests the decision of Administrative Law Judge John H.
Maclean (“the ALJ” or “ALJ Maclean”)
denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff
urges the Court to reverse and remand the ALJ's decision
for proper consideration of the evidence in this case. Doc.
14 at 21. Defendant asserts the Commissioner's decision
should be affirmed. Doc. 15 at 11. 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 July
29, 2014, alleging that she became disabled on March 4, 2014,
due to bipolar disorder, obesity, post-traumatic stress
disorder, high blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep apnea,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and swelling of her
feet and legs. Doc. 10-3 at 5; Doc. 10-4 at 2. After her
claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing. On September
13, 2016, ALJ Maclean conducted a video hearing at which
Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and
testified from Waycross, Georgia. Don K. Harrison, a
vocational expert, also appeared at the hearing. Doc. 10-3 at
5. ALJ Maclean found that Plaintiff was not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act (“the
Act”) since her application date of July 29, 2014.
Id. at 6. 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 June 7, 1977, was 37 years old on her alleged
disability onset date and 39 years old when ALJ Maclean
issued his final decision. Doc. 10-3 at 17, 18. She has at
least a high school education and some college. Id.
at 17, 40. Plaintiff's past relevant work experience
includes work as a corrections officer. Doc. 10-3 at 17.
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 his 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 July 29, 2014, her application date.
Doc. 10-3 at 7. At step two, ALJ Maclean determined Plaintiff
had carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, diabetes mellitus type
2, obesity, and bipolar disorder, conditions considered
“severe” under the Regulations because her
impairments caused “limitations or restriction having
more than a minimal effect” on Plaintiff's ability
to perform work-related activities. Id. & at 8.
However, at the third step, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's impairment did not meet or medically equal
the severity of a listed impairment. Id. at 9. The
ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to
perform work at the sedentary exertional level, with the
following exceptions: frequently climbing ramps and stairs;
never climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; frequently
handling or fingering bilaterally but never performing rapid,
repetitive movements; never crawling; occasionally stooping,
crouching, or kneeling; occasionally working around hazardous
machinery or heights; routine work with few changes; and
occasionally interacting with supervisors, coworkers, and the
public. Id. at 12. At the next step, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff could not perform any of her past
relevant work. Id. at 16. The ALJ concluded at the
fifth and final step that Plaintiff could perform the jobs of
an optical inspector and surveillance system operator, both
of which are jobs at the unskilled, sedentary exertional
level and which exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. Id. at 18.