Pickens v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION, as set out, re R&R 12 . Signed by Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn on 11/5/14. (CTS, )
2014 Nov-05 PM 03:48
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DORIS PICKENS, on behalf of V.P.,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner
of Social Security Administration,
Case No. 7:13-CV-1430-SLB
On August 4, 2014, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report and Recommendation;
thereafter, the parties were allowed therein fourteen days in which to file objections to the
Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 12.) On August 18, 2014, the Commissioner an
Objection to Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, (doc. 13); the following day
Ms. Perkins filed a Response to Defendant’s Objections, (doc. 14).
consideration of the record in this case, the Report and Recommendation, the Commissioner
Objection, and Ms. Perkins’s Response, the court OVERRULES IN PART and SUSTAINS
IN PART the Commissioner’s Objection to Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation; the court ADOPTS the Report of the Magistrate Judge and ACCEPTS
his Recommendations that the decision of the Commissioner that V.P. is not entitled to
Supplemental Security Income be reversed.
However, the court REJECTS his
Recommendation that this matter be remanded to the Commissioner for payment of benefits
and finds that, on remand, the Commissioner shall consider all record evidence, including
evidence submitted by Ms. Perkins to the Appeals Council, to determine whether V.P. is
entitled to benefits.
The court finds no error in the Magistrate Judge’s finding that the Commissioner’s
decision is due to be reversed in light of the evidence submitted to the Appeals Council.
However, the court may “remand the case for an entry of an order awarding disability
benefits where the [Commissioner] has already considered the essential evidence and it is
clear that the cumulative effect of the evidence establishes disability without any doubt.”
Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 534 (11th Cir. 1993)(citing Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d at
635-36). Findings as to “whether a claimant is disabled,” including a finding that he meets
or equals a Listing, is “reserved to the commissioner because [it is an] administrative
finding that [is] dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the determination or decision
of disability.” Tobler v. Colvin, No. 2:13-CV-1095-TMP, 2014 WL 4187372, at *3 (N.D.
Ala. Aug. 20, 2014)(quoting, inter alia, 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d))(internal quotations omitted).
The district court cannot “decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its]
judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Id. (quoting Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210
(11th Cir. 2005))(internal quotations omitted). Only when no question at all exists as to the
claimant’s disability may the district court reverse and remand the decision to the
Commissioner for an award of benefits. In all other cases, even cases where the district court
would award benefits, the Commissioner must be allowed to decide the issue of disability in
the first instance.
Therefore, “[i]f the Appeals Council merely perfunctorily adheres to the ALJ’s
decision,” as in this case, “the Commissioner’s findings are not supported by substantial
evidence and [the court] must remand for a determination of the claimant’s disability
eligibility reached on the total record.” Flowers v. Commissioner of Social Security, 441
Fed. Appx. 735, 745 (11th Cir. 2011)(quoting Epps v. Harris, 624 F.2d 1267, 1273 (5th Cir.
1980))(internal quotations omitted).1 A separate order in conformity with this Memorandum
Opinion reversing the Commissioner’s decision and remanding this case for a determination
of V.P.’s disability eligibility based on the entire record, including but not limited to evidence
submitted to the Appeals Council, will be entered contemporaneously herewith.
DONE this 5th day of November, 2014.
SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Decisions of the former Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rendered prior to October 1,
1981, constitute binding precedent in the Eleventh Circuit. Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661
F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir.1981) (en banc).
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