Daytona Beach Personal Injury Lawyers
Free Consultations 386.258.1622

Eleventh Circuit affirms denial of plaintiff’s petition for SSDI benefits; finds no inconsistency in ALJ finding that an applicant was limited to following simple instructions but eligible for employment positions that required the ability to follow “detailed but uninvolved” instructions

On August 3, 2021, in Buckwalter v. Acting Commissioner of Social Security, No. 19-14420, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a denial of the plaintiff’s application for Social Security disability insurance benefits under 42 U.S. C. § 405(g). The plaintiff suffers from bipolar disorder and depression and was appealing a denial of SSDI benefits, having already lost her appeals before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the district court. As explained by the Eleventh Circuit, an individual seeking SSDI benefits must prove that he or she is disabled, and there is a five-step sequential analysis which the ALJ must follow, which is codified at 20 C.F.R § 404.1520(a)(4). The ALJ must evaluate whether a claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment that meets or equals a listed impairment and meets the duration requirements; (4) can perform her past relevant work, in light of her residual functional capacity (RFC); and (5) can make an adjustment to other work, in light of her RFC, age, education, and work experience, that is available in the national economy. If the ALJ determines that the claimant is not disabled at any step of the evaluation process, the inquiry ends. In this case, the plaintiff alleged that the ALJ’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to resolve the apparent conflict between the Vocational Expert’s testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) regarding the jobs that the plaintiff could perform. Specifically, she alleged that the ALJ’s finding that she could perform jobs that require an individual to be able to follow “detailed but uninvolved” instructions conflicts with the ALJ’s finding that she was only capable of carrying out simple instructions. The Eleventh Circuit noted that it had yet to resolve in a published decision whether there is an apparent conflict between one’s limitation to following simple instructions and positions that require the ability to follow “detailed but uninvolved” instructions and that the question has split the district courts in this circuit. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that there was no apparent conflict and affirmed the district court’s ruling on that basis.