Williams v. Colvin
Order ent. that the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiffs claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income be AFFIRMED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Sonja F. Bivins on 8/26/2014. (mjn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MELISSA A. WILLIAMS,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Commissioner of Social Security,*
Civil Action No. 13-00415-B
brings this action seeking judicial review of a final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for a
supplemental security income
under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.
On May 1, 2014,
the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and
all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 17).
Thus, the action was
referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order
the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73.
Upon careful consideration
of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties,
it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of
security income on June 21, 2010. (Doc. 13 at 1; Tr. 154-61).
Plaintiff alleges that she has been disabled since May 1, 2006
“VE”) attended the hearing. (Id., at 39).
On March 19, 2012,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is
Plaintiff’s request for review on June 13, 2013. (Id., at 1-3).
Thus, the ALJ’s decision dated March 19, 2012 became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
The parties waived oral argument
and agree that this case is now ripe for judicial review and is
properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3). (Docs. 16, 18).
Issue on Appeal
Plaintiff can return to her past relevant work,
without making specific findings regarding the
physical and mental demands of the work, as
required by SSR 82-62.
III. Factual Background
Plaintiff was born on April 11, 1967, and was 44 years of
age at the time of her administrative hearing on January 4,
2012. (Tr. 43).
Plaintiff testified at the hearing that she
completed 13 years of school and last worked as an operator at
International Paper in 2006. (Id.).
According to Plaintiff,
prior to that job, she worked as a cashier at Andrews Hardware
store checking out customers, stocking shelves with light bulbs,
making orders and assisting customers. (Id., at 44).
Plaintiff testified that her main problem is pressure in
her back that radiates down her legs, and causes a “nulling pain
in her left leg”. (Id., at 45-46).
testified that she suffers from headaches every day and that she
has not found anything that relieves the headaches. (Id., at
On Plaintiff’s function report, she reported that her daily
activities include taking care of her personal needs, including
television, washing dishes, walking to the mailbox, sitting and
talking with family, and sitting on the back porch watching her
grandson play. (Id., at 202, 205).
Plaintiff also reported that
sandwiches, and that she is able to do some shopping.
regard to social activities, Plaintiff reported that she goes to
church weekly and sings in the choir one Sunday a month, and
that she sits with her grandchildren and talks on the phone.
(Id., at 47, 206).
Plaintiff further reported that she is able
to lift “maybe 10 lbs” and walk 15-20 minutes at a time. (Id.,
In addition to the foregoing facts, the ALJ discussed the
medical evidence and made the following relevant findings:
The claimant has the following severe impairments:
The claimant also suffers from obesity. However, the
medical evidence of record does not support a
finding that this impairment causes more than a
minimal limitation in the claimant’s ability to
perform basic work activities. Therefore, it is a
non-severe impairment. Nevertheless, the undersigned
considered this impairment when developing the
residual functional capacity described below.
stated as follows:
After careful consideration
the undersigned finds that
residual capacity to perform
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
of the entire record,
the claimant has the
light work as defined
416.967(b) except the
The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since May 1, 2006, and that she
does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals any of the listed impairments
contained in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id., at
claimant is limited to work which will require the
occasionally push/pull hand and foot
controls; occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl,
ladders/ropes/scaffolds; work in a well-ventilated
area; have concentrated exposure of no more than 5
minutes to fumes, odors, gases and temperature
extremes; never work around unprotected heights;
and never operate dangerous equipment or automotive
In making this finding, I have considered all
symptoms and the extent to which these symptoms can
reasonably be accepted as consistent with the
objective medical evidence and other evidence,
based on the requirements of 20 CFR 404.1529 and
416.929 and SSRs 96-4p and 96-7p. The undersigned
has also considered opinion evidence in accordance
with the requirements of 20 CFR 404.1527 and
416.927 and SSRs 96-2p, 96-5p, 96-6p, and 06-3p.
In sum, the above residual functional capacity
assessment is supported by the medical evidence of
record, medical opinions as discussed above, the
medical course of treatment established by the
record, the claimant’s activities of daily living,
and the claimant’s work history.
(Id., at 27-30).
After outlining Plaintiff’s RFC assessment, the ALJ found
Plaintiff capable of performing her past relevant work as a
He explained as follows:
The claimant is capable of performing past relevant
work as a cashier (DOT Code 211.462-010). This work
does not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the claimant’s residual
functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
The vocational expert testified the claimant’s past
relevant work includes working as a cashier.
testified this is a light, semi-skilled occupation.
The vocational expert testified a hypothetical
individual with the claimant’s vocational profile
(i.e. same age, education, work experience, and
residual functional capacity) would be able to
perform the duties of this occupation.
(Id., at 30-31).
performing her past relevant work as a cashier, the ALJ made
residual functional capacity for a reduced range of light work,
as well as her age, education, and work experience, there are
other jobs existing in the national economy that Plaintiff is
able to perform, such as a companion, a teacher’s aid, and a
Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id., at 32).
Standard of Review
In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court’s
supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct
legal standards were applied.2 Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520,
This Court’s review of the Commissioner’s application of legal
principles is plenary. Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th
1529 (11th Cir. 1990).
A court may not decide the facts anew,
reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir.
The Commissioner’s findings of fact must be affirmed if
they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921
F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703
F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence
exists, a court must view the record as a whole, taking into
Commissioner’s decision. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131
(11th Cir. 1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163, *4
(S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).
An individual who applies for Social Security disability
Disability is defined 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
determining if a claimant has proven his disability. 3 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.
summarily concluding that she can return to her past relevant
analysis regarding the physical and mental demands of the work
The claimant must first prove that he or she has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity.
The second step requires the
claimant to prove that he or she has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. If, at the third step, the claimant
proves that the impairment or combination of impairments meets
automatically found disabled regardless of age, education, or
If the claimant cannot prevail at the third
step, he or she must proceed to the fourth step where the
claimant must prove an inability to perform their past relevant
work. Jones v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001, 1005 (11th Cir. 1986). In
evaluating whether the claimant has met this burden, the
examiner must consider the following four factors: (1) objective
medical facts and clinical findings; (2) diagnoses of examining
physicians; (3) evidence of pain; and (4) the claimant’s age,
education and work history. Id.
Once a claimant meets this
burden, it becomes the Commissioner’s burden to prove at the
fifth step that the claimant is capable of engaging in another
claimant’s residual functional capacity, age, education, and
work history. Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 836 (11th Cir.
1985). If the Commissioner can demonstrate that there are such
jobs the claimant can perform, the claimant must prove inability
to perform those jobs in order to be found disabled. Jones v.
Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999). See also Hale v.
Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Francis v.
Heckler, 749 F.2d 1562, 1564 (11th Cir. 1985)).
as required by SSR 82-62. (Doc. 13 at 2).
that based on the ALJ’s reference to the DOT’s description of
the demands of cashier work coupled with the ALJ’s reference to
the VE’s testimony that a hypothetical person with Plaintiff’s
RFC can perform cashier work, the ALJ properly analyzed the job
demands of the cashier work. (Doc. 14 at 6).
The Court agrees.
A plaintiff bears the burden of showing that she can no
longer perform her past relevant work as she actually performed
it, or as it is performed in the general economy. Waldrop v.
Comm’r. of Soc. Sec., 379 F. App’x 948, 953 (11th Cir. 2010).
Even though a plaintiff has the burden of showing she can no
longer perform her past relevant work, the Commissioner has the
obligation to develop a full and fair record. Schnorr v. Bowen,
develop a full and fair record, an ALJ must consider all of the
duties of that past relevant work and evaluate a plaintiff’s
impairments. Levie v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 514 F. App’x 829, 831
(11th Cir. 2013) (citing Lucas v. Sullivan, 918 F.2d 1567, 1574
n.3 (11th Cir. 1990).
SSR 82-62 requires the ALJ to make the “following specific
findings of fact: 1. A finding of fact as to the individual’s
RFC. 2. A finding of fact as to the physical and mental demands
individual’s RFC would permit a return to his or her past job or
A plaintiff is the primary source for vocational
documentation, and “statements by the claimant regarding past
work are generally sufficient for determining the skill level;
exertional demands and nonexertional demands of such work.” Id.
As noted, the plaintiff must show that she is not “able to
perform [her] past kind of work, not that [s]he merely [is]
Douglas v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 486 F. App’x 72, 74 (11th Cir.
indicates that she cannot perform any of the requirements of the
performed in the general economy. Nobles v. Astrue, 2009 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 9389 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 5, 2009) (where the claimant
failed to identify any requirements of past relevant work that
demonstrating an inability to return to her past relevant work).
Moreover, the Court finds that the ALJ adequately explained her
determination that Plaintiff could return to her previous work
as a cashier.
A review of the record reflects that Plaintiff
herself provided the vocational documentation for the cashier
position as required by SSR 82-62, through her submission of the
work history report, and in her testimony at the administrative
hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 43-44, 167, 170).
employed at Andrews Hardware, she worked as a cashier and her
duties included mainly checking out customers, stocking shelves
with light bulbs, making orders, and assisting customers (Id.,
In her work history report, Plaintiff reported that
her cashier work required her to lift up to 20-50 pounds, with
evidence clearly demonstrates that a description of Plaintiff’s
past work as a cashier was obtained from Plaintiff, just as the
Social Security regulations allow. See SSR 82-62; 20 C.F.R. §
404.1560(b)(2) (“We will ask you for information about work you
have done in the past.”).
Additionally, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a VE, who
history report, and opined that Plaintiff’s RFC permitted her to
return to her past relevant work as a cashier. (Tr. 55-56).
ALJ also referenced the DOT, which provides documentation on the
skill level and exertional demands of cashier work. DOT Code
The ALJ complied with the requirements of SSR 82-62 by
determining Plaintiff’s RFC based on Plaintiff’s testimony and
past work as a cashier from Plaintiff herself and other sources,
and specifically finding that Plaintiff retains the RFC to meet
the physical and mental demands of her past work.
requirements of her past relevant work she is unable to perform.
Accordingly, she has not met her burden to prove that she is
Furthermore, assuming arguendo that the ALJ erred by not
prove that she is disabled.
In her decision, the ALJ made
alternative findings at step five.
Relying on the testimony of
the VE, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retains the residual
functional capacity to perform the light, un-skilled jobs of
companion, teacher’s aid, and desk clerk. (Tr. 57).
brief, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ’s RFC assessment of
a reduced range of light work or her finding that there are
other jobs in the national economy that she can perform with the
Because the ALJ’s findings are supported by substantial
evidence of record, the Court must affirm the ALJ’s decision
denying Plaintiff’s request for benefits, as the alleged error
error because the correct application would not contradict the
ALJ’s ultimate findings, the ALJ’s decision will stand).
consideration of the administrative record and memoranda of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff’s claim for a
supplemental security income be AFFIRMED.
DONE this 26th day of August, 2014.
/s/ SONJA F. BIVINS
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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