Brady v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION. Signed by Judge R David Proctor on 3/4/2013. (AVC)
2013 Mar-04 PM 02:29
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SHEILA DOLLAR BRADY,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
Case No.: 5:11-CV-03722-RDP
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Plaintiff Sheila Dollar Brady (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to Section 405(g) of the
Social Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying her applications for a period of disability and Disability Income
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II, and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits under Title XVI.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c). For the reasons outlined below, the court finds that the decision
of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
Plaintiff filed an application for SSI under Title XVI of the Act on March 27, 2008. [R. 62,
105-108]. Plaintiff also filed an application for DIB under Title II of the Act on April 9, 2008. [R.
60, 109-114]. Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of March 31, 2006. [R. 105, 111]. Plaintiff’s
applications were denied on May 29, 2008. [R. 21]. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on November 19, 2009. [R. 76-77, 33-58]. In
his December 14, 2009 decision, the ALJ denied disability benefits concluding that Plaintiff was
not disabled under Section 216(i), Section 223(d), or Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act. [R. 28].
After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision, that decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner, and therefore a proper subject of this court’s review.
[R. 1]. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 47 years old and had completed the tenth grade. [R.
39]. Plaintiff had previously worked as a cashier, a lighting assembler, a shipping and receiving
clerk, a part time rug cleaner, and a dental assistant. [R. 51-52]. In her applications for disability
benefits, Plaintiff noted that chronic headaches, depression, carpal tunnel, and restless leg syndrome
limited her ability to work. [R. 129].
At the hearing Plaintiff gave testimony regarding the specifics of her condition. Plaintiff
alleged that her headaches caused her to miss days from work and interfered with her ability to work
as a cashier because she could not comprehend how much change to return to customers. [R. 40].
Plaintiff stated that her headaches cause pain starting an eight (8) out of ten (10) on the doctor’s pain
scale. [R. 43]. Plaintiff further alleged that no medicine helps her headaches. [R. 50].
Three or four weeks before her hearing, Plaintiff was diagnosed with seizures. [R. 41].
Plaintiff testified that the seizures occur “off and on all day” and that when she suffers an onset, she
“blacks out.” [R. 48]. Plaintiff explained that she does receive a warning when the seizures occur
because she feels numbness and tingling on the right side of her body. [R. 48]. Plaintiff also testified
that when she drives, if she starts to feel the tingling feeling, she has time to pull off the road before
the seizure occurs. [R. 48].
Plaintiff also testified that she suffers from fibromyalgia [R. 40], which causes her entire
body to hurt. [R. 44]. Plaintiff also claimed she suffered from knee pain because she has “no
cartilage in her knees” and that this pain makes it difficult for her walk. [R. 44]. Plaintiff testified
that her depression prevents her from enjoying activities like quilting and painting. [R. 47]. Plaintiff
further noted that she has trouble with her short-term memory, gets exhausted easily, does not sleep
well at night, and gets agitated when she is around groups of people. [R. 44-45]. Plaintiff stated that
she occasionally cooks and does laundry. [R. 41-42]. Plaintiff also testified that she had recently
taken a cross-country road trip by car to Nevada and a cross-country motorcycle trip to Arizona. [R.
In support of her claim, Plaintiff presented medical records beginning with an October 2007
entry from Dr. Sheri Swader of Cullman Primary Care Neurology, which diagnosed Plaintiff with
chronic headaches. [R. 237]. Dr. Swader prescribed Depakote and ordered a sleep deprived EEG
to further evaluate whether Plaintiff was having seizures. [R. 241]. Dr. Swader examined Plaintiff
again on December 3, 2007 and changed her headache prescription. [R. 238]. Dr. Swader noted that
Plaintiff’s EEG was normal and she showed no signs of spells or seizures. [R. 237-238]. In April
2008, Dr. Swader changed Plaintiff’s prescription once again and ordered CT scan after various
medications did not help Plaintiff’s symptoms. [R. 235].
On February 27, 2008, Plaintiff was rear-ended in a car accident and sought treatment at
Cullman Regional Medical Center. [R. 217-230]. Plaintiff was admitted to the emergency room and
complained of mild pain in her neck and back. [R. 224]. X-rays of Plaintiff’s back revealed no nerve
impingement and no malalignment or fractures. [R. 230]. Plaintiff was prescribed medication for her
pain and was instructed to follow-up with her doctor. [R. 227].
On March 10, 2008, Plaintiff visited Dr. Joseph Johnson for the first time stating that she
needed a new primary care physician. [R. 299]. Plaintiff was referred by Dr. Swader. [R. 299]. Dr.
Johnson indicated that Plaintiff was in “no acute distress” and that she “move[d] all extremities
well.” [R. 299]. He further noted that remaining tenderness in her neck and back was consistent and
expected after the car accident. [R. 300]. He indicated that Plaintiff would follow-up with Dr.
Swader regarding her chronic headaches. [R. 300]. Plaintiff returned to Dr. Johnson’s office on
March 21, 2008 complaining of continued neck pain. [R. 298]. Plaintiff was in no acute distress and
Dr. Johnson prescribed another medication for her neck pain. [R. 298]. He also ordered an MRI,
which was conducted on March 25, 2008 at Cullman Primary Care Diagnostic Imaging Center. [R.
297]. Dr. Gregg Delgado’s notes indicate the MRI was not particularly clear due to Plaintiff’s
moving during the scan, but Dr. Delgado did state that it showed one bulging disk. [R. 297].
Dr. Johnson referred Plaintiff to Dr. Cheng Tao, M.D., for a consultation based upon the MRI
results. [R. 293]. Dr, Tao’s examination notes indicate that Plaintiff continued to complain of neck
pain. [R. 294]. Dr. Tao commented that Plaintiff was able to walk on her toes and heels without
difficulty and exhibited a full range of motion in all joints. [R. 294]. Dr. Tao reviewed the MRI and
found a mild disc bulge but no significant cord compression. [R. 294]. Dr. Tao referred Plaintiff for
a course of physical therapy and informed her surgery would not be necessary. [R. 295].
Plaintiff saw Dr. Johnson again on May 7, 2008 and May 28, 2008. [R. 289, 290]. Treatment
notes from these two visits indicate Plaintiff was experiencing little relief from her headaches. [R.
289, 290]. Plaintiff was in no acute distress during either visit, and Dr. Johnson noted that Plaintiff
continues to suffer from chronic headaches, possible anxiety/depression, insomnia, and restless leg
syndrome. [R. 289, 290].
On May 7, 2008, Guendalina Ravello, Ph.D., completed a Psychiatric Review Technique.
[R. 244-257]. Dr. Ravello concluded that Plaintiff suffered from no severe impairments. [R. 244].
Dr. Ravello did note that Plaintiff’s treating physician notes indicated Plaintiff suffered from slight
anxiety. [R. 249]. Dr. Ravello’s report states that Plaintiff did not take psychiatric medications or
receive any mental health treatment. [R. 256]. Dr. Ravello determined that Plaintiff has mild
limitations in activities of daily living, maintaining social functioning, and maintaining
concentration, persistence, or pace. [R. 254]. Dr. Ravello noted Plaintiff showed no signs of
decompensation. [R. 254].
Dr. Bharat Vakharia, M.D., performed a Social Security Disability Examination of Plaintiff
on May 20, 2008. [R. 259]. Dr. Vakharia noted that Plaintiff complained of leg shakes and jerks
(due to restless leg syndrome), fatigue, pain in both knee joints, constant headaches, and sensitivity
to light and noise. [R. 259-60]. Dr. Vakharia’s examination notes indicate that Plaintiff’s movement
of her musculoskeletal system and cervical spine was “minimally limited.” [R. 260]. Plaintiff’s legs
were both shaking and Plaintiff “was trying to grab her leg.” [R. 260]. Dr. Vakharia also commented
that “extreme flexion of the knee was causing pain.” [R. 260-261]. However, Plaintiff’s hip
movement was fairly normal, and Plaintiff had good hand grips and a normal gait. [R. 261]. Dr.
Vakharia concluded that Plaintiff could not walk on her tip toes or the heels of her feet and that she
could not squat more than ninety (90) degrees and stand up. [R. 261]. Dr. Vakharia diagnosed
Plaintiff with restless leg syndrome and the possibility of stress or anxiety reaction without ruling
out voluntary tremor, daily chronic headache, chronic fatigue, bilateral knee pain, and anxiety and
depression. [R. 261]. Dr. Vakharia also indicated that Plaintiff was told she had fibromyalgia.1 [R.
It is unclear to the court whether Dr. Vakharia himself diagnosed Plaintiff with fibromyalgia or listed this
diagnosis from another physician under his considerations.
On May 28, 2008, a non-physician disability examiner, Patti Hood (“Hood”), completed a
Residual Functional Capacity Assessment (“RFC”) of Plaintiff. Regarding exertional limitations,
Hood concluded that Plaintiff could occasionally lift twenty (20) pounds, frequently lift ten (10)
pounds, stand and/or walk with normal breaks for about six (6) hours in an 8-hour work day, and that
Plaintiff required no limitations on pushing and/or pulling. [R. 265]. Hood determined Plaintiff had
no postural, visual, or communicative limitations. [R. 266-68]. Regarding manipulative limitations,
Hood determined that Plaintiff was limited in her ability to reach in all directions but had no
limitations in her handling, fingering, or feeling. [R. 267]. Due to Plaintiff’s chronic headaches,
Hood concluded that Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat,
noise, vibration, fumes, odors, gases, dusts, and gases, and that Plaintiff should avoid all exposure
to hazards such as unprotected heights and machinery. [R. 268]. Hood noted that no treating or
examining physicians statements were on file regarding Plaintiff’s physical capacities. [R. 270].
Hood further indicated that she found Plaintiff’s subjective claims regarding Plaintiff’s condition to
be partially credible. [R. 269].
Throughout the summer and early fall of 2008, Plaintiff saw Dr. Swader for several follow-up
visits regarding her headaches. [R. 273-82]. Dr. Swader’s treatment notes reflect that Plaintiff’s
headaches continued but that she did show some improvement. [R. 274]. During all of these visits,
Plaintiff’s recent and remote recall was intact. [R. 273-82]. Plaintiff was in “mild distress” during
two visits over this period of time. [R. 275, 277].
On July 11, 2008, Plaintiff sought treatment at Mental Healthcare of Cullman. [R. 318]. Her
intake/evaluation form indicates that she was seen for an evaluation of mental functioning. [R. 318].
At this time, she was noted to have a Global Functioning Assessment (“GAF”) of 50. Treatment
notes from follow-up visits with Dr. Sultana Begum, a psychiatrist, reflect a diagnosis of major
depressive disorder. [R. 306]. Treatment notes through May 2011 indicate Plaintiff had impaired
short and long term memory, attention, and concentration. [R. 385, 391]. Plaintiff was never
hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. [R. 384].
On October 12, 2009, in addition to continuing her treatment of Plaintiff’s headaches, Dr.
Swader diagnosed Plaintiff with spells consistent with seizures. [R. 358]. Follow-up treatment notes
from February 17, 2010 again indicate that Plaintiff continued to have spells consistent with partial
seizures. [R. 363]. In April 2010, Plaintiff told Dr. Swader that her spells were increasing in
frequency, which Dr. Swader noted were likely related to Plaintiff’s stress. [R. 368]. On October
20, 2010, Dr. Swader commented that she was not certain all of Plaintiff’s spells were true seizures.
[R. 371]. On January 18, 2011, Dr. Swader again saw Plaintiff who complained she was having one
to three spells a day. [R. 376]. Treatment notes from this visit indicate Plaintiff was not compliant
with her medications (perhaps due to a lack of insurance). [R. 377]. Dr. Swader was unable to
determine how many of the spells were true seizures. [R. 377]. Plaintiff saw Dr. Swader on April
18, 2011 for another follow-up visit. [R. 373]. Plaintiff complained that she was having eight to ten
spells per day. [R. 373]. Dr. Swader once again noted that there was difficulty with medication
compliance and that she was not certain if Plaintiff’s spells were seizures or nonepilectic events. [R.
375]. Dr. Swader’s notes from Plaintiff’s April 18, 2011 visit also indicate that Plaintiff was
“leaving” with her boyfriend on May 5, 2011 and would not return to home until September 2011.
In response to a hypothetical posed from the ALJ, a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the
hearing that someone of Plaintiff’s age, education, prior work history, and with her RFC could
perform work as a cashier. [R. 55-56]. The VE also testified that there would be other jobs, such as
laundry sorter and inspector, that someone like Plaintiff could perform. [R. 56]. In response to a
question from Plaintiff’s representative, the VE testified that headaches with a pain level of eight (8)
on almost a daily basis would preclude employment. [R. 56].
Disability under the Act is determined under a five-step test. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First,
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Substantial work activity” is work activity that involves doing significant
physical or mental activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a). “Gainful work activity” is work that is done
for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(b). If the ALJ finds that the claimant engages in substantial
gainful activity, then the claimant cannot claim disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Second, the
ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or a
combination of medical impairments that significantly limits the claimant’s ability to perform basic
work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Absent such impairment, the claimant may not
claim disability. Id. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant’s impairment meets or
medically equals the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526. If such criteria are met, the claimant is declared
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).
If the claimant does not fulfill the requirements necessary to be declared disabled under the
third step, the ALJ may still find disability under the next two steps of the analysis. The ALJ must
first determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which refers to the claimant’s
ability to work despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). In the fourth step, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant has the RFC to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant is determined to be capable of performing past relevant work,
then the claimant is deemed not disabled. Id. If the ALJ finds the claimant unable to perform past
relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
In the last part of the analysis, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is able to perform any
other work commensurate with his RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(g). Here, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the ALJ to prove the existence,
in significant numbers, of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can do given her RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 404.1560(c).
The court recognizes that “the ultimate burden of proving disability is on the claimant” and
that the “claimant must establish a prima facie case by demonstrating that [s]he can no longer
perform [her] former employment.” Freeman v. Schweiker, 681 F.2d 727, 729 (11th Cir. 1982)
(other citations omitted). Once a claimant shows that she can no longer perform her past
employment, “the burden then shifts to the [Commissioner] to establish that the claimant can
perform other substantial gainful employment.” Id.
Here, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through
June 30, 2011. [R. 23]. The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 31, 2006, the alleged onset date. [R. 23]. The ALJ found that Plaintiff
suffers from headaches and a seizure disorder, both of which are “severe” impairments as defined
by the Act. [R. 23]. Nonetheless, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff’s impairments neither meet nor
medically equal the requirements for any impairment in the Listing of Impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart F, Appendix 1. [R. 23].
According to the ALJ, Plaintiff’s subjective complaints about her impairments (and their
impact on her ability to work) are not fully credible due to their inconsistency with the medical
evidence established in the record and Plaintiff’s own statements about cross-country car and
motorcycle trips and her testimony that despite her seizures she continues to drive and believes she
would have enough time to pull off the road if she felt a seizure onset. [R. 24-27]. After
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity
to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) and that she has the
following limitations: she can occasionally lift 20 pounds and frequently lift, carry, push, and pull
10 pounds; she can stand and/or walk for a total of 6 hours during an eight hour workday; she can
sit with normal breaks for 6 hours during an eight hour workday; she can occasionally climb ramps
and stairs; she cannot work on ladders, ropes or scaffolds for safety reasons; she can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; she limited to frequent in regard to overhead reaching; she
should avoid concentrated exposure to noise and vibrations; she should not work around unprotected
heights or hazardous moving machinery; and she should not work around loud noises. [R. 24].
The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is able to perform past relevant work as a cashier because
this work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by her residual
functional capacity.2 [R. 27]. Thus, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff is not disabled as that term is defined
in the Act, and therefore, is not entitled to DIB or SSI. [R. 28].
The Appeals Council specifically ruled that Plaintiff’s past work as a cashier was not past relevant work
because there was insufficient evidence in the record to determine whether Plaintiff’s past work as a cashier constituted
substantial gainful activity. [R. 6]. The Appeals Council also found that Plaintiffs was unable to perform her past work
as a shipping and receiving clerk because the requirements of that job exceeded that permitted by her residual functional
capacity. [R. 6]. The Appeals Council also concluded that, based upon the VE’s testimony, there are a significant
number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, such as laundry sorter and inspector. [R. 7].
Plaintiff’s Argument for Reversal
Plaintiff seeks to have the ALJ’s decision reversed, or in the alternative, remanded for further
consideration. [Pl.s Mem. 13]. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by
substantial evidence and improper legal standards were applied because: (1) the ALJ failed to include
non-severe impairments in his residual functional capacity findings and (2) the ALJ failed to properly
consider Plaintiff’s impairments in combination. [Pl’s Mem. 7, 9].
Standard of Review
The only issues before this court are whether the record reveals substantial evidence to
sustain the ALJ’s decision and whether the correct legal standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982); Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th
Cir. 1988); Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
mandates that the commissioner’s findings are conclusive if supported by “substantial evidence.”
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not reconsider the
facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it
must review the final decision as a whole and determine if the decision is reasonable and supported
by substantial evidence. See id. (citing Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir.
Substantial evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a preponderance of evidence;
“[i]t is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other citations
omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner’s factual findings must be
affirmed even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner’s findings. See Martin, 894
F.2d at 1259.
After careful review, the court concludes the ALJ’s decision is due to be affirmed for the
The ALJ Did Not Err in Failing to Include Non-Severe Impairments in His
Residual Functional Capacity Findings
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not consider Plaintiff’s non-severe impairments in making
his RFC findings. [Pl.’s Mem. 7]. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that ALJ overlooked symptoms
associated with her non-severe impairments of depression and anxiety. [Pl.’s Mem. 8-9]. It is true
that an ALJ must consider all the record evidence, including evidence of non-severe impairments
when making an RFC determination. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004).
Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertions, the ALJ did just that here.
Plaintiff first contends that the ALJ overlooked one GAF score of 50 noted by Dr. Bertam
during Plaintiff’s initial visit at Mental Healthcare of Cullman. [Pl.’s Mem. 8; R. 321]. Second,
Plaintiff complains that the ALJ did not consider evidence in treatment notes from Mental
Healthcare of Cullman indicating a family history of depression, decreased attention and
concentration, poor memory, weight loss, mood swings, and insomnia. [Pl.’s Mem. 8-9]. Finally,
Plaintiff claims that the ALJ overlooked abnormal EEG results. [Pl.’s Mem. 9].
The court initially notes that “there is no requirement that the ALJ specifically refer to every
piece of evidence in his decision, so long as the ALJ’s decision. . . is not a broad rejection which is
‘not enough to enable [the district court] to conclude that [the ALJ] considered [claimant’s] medical
condition as a whole.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1212 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1561 (11th Cir. 1995)). This court’s standard of review is “whether the ALJ’s
conclusion as a whole was supported by substantial evidence in the record.” Id. Although the ALJ
did not specifically refer to Dr. Betram’s GAF score of 50 and did not discuss at length every single
symptom associated with her depression, the ALJ properly summarized Plaintiff’s treatment records
from Mental Healthcare of Cullman and specifically noted that on two subsequent visits, in
September 2008 and July 2009, Plaintiff had a GAF score of 55. [R. 26, 314, 333]. The ALJ also
commented that Dr. Swader’s treatment notes indicated that Plaintiff’s recent and remote recall were
normal, Plaintiff showed no evidence of decompensation, and that Plaintiff’s subjective complaints
about depression and anxiety were inconsistent with her testimony that she continued to drive, did
some housework, laundry, and cleaning, and had recently taken two cross country trips. [R. 26].
Moreover, Plaintiff’s claim that the ALJ did not consider abnormal EEGs is inconsistent with his
findings. Specifically, the ALJ stated that an EEG performed in August 2009 was abnormal in that
it showed signs of some cerebral atrophy. [R. 26]. The ALJ also considered Plaintiff’s normal EEG
test results. [R. 26]. Furthermore, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff’s testimony that she continued to drive
and felt as though she would have time to pull off the road if she felt a seizure happening was
inconsistent with frequent uncontrolled seizures. [R. 26]. Based on the record as a whole, this court
finds that the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff’s non-severe mental health symptoms and that his
RFC assessment is supported by substantial evidence. See id. As such, the Commissioner’s decision
is not due to be reversed on this ground.
The ALJ Did Not Err in Failing to Consider Plaintiff’s Impairments in
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ recited the evidence documenting Plaintiff’s headaches and
seizures but that he did not properly consider her impairments in combination. [Pl.s’ Mem. 9-10].
This argument completely misses the mark. Without question, where a claimant alleges several
impairments, the ALJ must consider them in combination. See e.g., Jones v. Dep’t of Health and
Human Servs., 941 F.2d 1529, 1533 (11th Cir. 1991). However, the Eleventh Circuit has repeatedly
held that an ALJ satisfies this duty by stating that he considered whether the claimant suffered from
any impairment or combination of impairments. See Hutchinson v. Astrue, 408 Fed. Appx. 324, 327
(11th Cir. 2011) (finding that the ALJ’s statement that [claimant] did not have an ‘impairment,
individually or in combination’ that met one of the listed impairments...shows that the ALJ
considered the combined effects of [claimant’s] impairments during her evaluation”); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1224-25 (11th Cir. 2002) (reversing a district court’s determination that
an ALJ did not consider or discuss the cumulative effects of a claimant’s impairments where the ALJ
explictly stated that the claimant did not have “an impairment or combination of impairments listed
in, or medically equal to one listed” in the regulations); Jones, 941 F.2d at 1533 (finding that the
ALJ’s conclusion that claimant did not have “an impairment or combination of impairments listed
in, or medically equal to one listed” in the regulations “evidence[d] consideration of the combined
effect of [claimant’s] impairments).
Here, the ALJ specifically stated that Plaintiff did not have an “impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments” in evaluating step three
of the process. [R. 23]. Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertions, this statement suffices to demonstrate that
the ALJ did consider the combined effects of her impairments. See e.g., Hutchinson, 408 Fed. Appx.
at 327; Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1224-25; Jones, 941 F.2d at 1533. Therefore, the Commissioner’s
decision is not due to be reversed on this ground.
The court concludes that the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff is not disabled is supported
by substantial evidence and proper legal standards were applied in reaching this determination.
Therefore, the Commissioner’s decision is due to be affirmed, and a separate order in accordance
with this memorandum of decision will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED this
day of March, 2013.
R. DAVID PROCTOR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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