United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
R. LAMMENS United States Magistrate Judge
appeals the administrative decision denying his applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). Upon a review of the record, the
memoranda, and the applicable law, the Commissioner's
decision is REVERSED AND REMANDED.
2011, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI benefits,
alleging disability beginning June 1, 2008. (Tr. 141-48). The
claims were denied initially, and upon reconsideration. At
Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held on January 21,
2013. (Tr. 37-59). After the hearing, the ALJ obtained
treatment records from the Alachua County Jail (Tr. 289-350,
351-95), where Plaintiff had been incarcerated, and ordered a
consultative psychological evaluation and IQ assessment,
which was performed by Dr. William E. Benet, Ph.D., Psy.D on
March 6, 2013. (Tr. 397-401). On June 26, 2013, the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a notice of unfavorable
decision, finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 22-31).
Plaintiff's request for review was denied by the Appeals
Council (Tr. 4-6), and Plaintiff initiated this action on
November 5, 2015. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff has exhausted his
administrative remedies, and the final decision of the
Commissioner is ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. §
on a review of the record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had
the following severe impairments: borderline intellectual
functioning and traumatic brain injury. (Tr. 25). The ALJ
found that the Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following non-exertional limitations: the claimant
must avoid climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds and work
around workplace hazards such as unprotected heights and
exposed machinery. (Tr. 26). He is limited to work tasks not
requiring a production rate pace, and not requiring a GED or
reasoning, math, language skill level of more than 2. (Tr.
upon his RFC, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 30). The
ALJ found that Plaintiff's ability to perform work at all
exertional levels has been compromised by exertional
limitation, but that they have little or no effect on the
occupational base of unskilled work at all exertional levels.
(Tr. 30). She then applied Section 204.00 of the Medical
-Vocational Guidelines and found that Plaintiff was not
disabled. (Tr. 30-31).
Standard of Review
claimant is entitled to disability benefits when he or she is
unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to either result in death or
last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.
42 U.S.C. §§416(i)(1), 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential analysis
for evaluating a claim of disability, which is by now
well-known and otherwise set forth in the ALJ's decision.
See 20 CFR §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2001). The claimant, of course, bears the burden of
persuasion through step four and, at step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987).
scope of this Court's review is limited to a
determination of whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards and whether the findings are supported by
substantial evidence. McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d
1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988)(citing Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971)). Indeed, the
Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla - i.e., the
evidence must do more than merely create a suspicion of the
existence of a fact, and must include such relevant evidence
as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support
the conclusion. Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560
(11th Cir. 1995) (citing Walden v. Schweiker, 672
F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982) and Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); accord Edwards
v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991).
Where the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, the District Court will affirm, even if
the reviewer would have reached a contrary result as finder
of fact, and even if the reviewer finds that the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's decision.
Edwards, 937 F.2d at 584 n.3; Barnes v.
Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1991). This is
clearly a deferential standard. Nevertheless, “[t]he
Secretary's failure to apply the correct law or to
provide the reviewing court with sufficient reasoning for
determining that the proper legal analysis has been conducted
mandates reversal.” Keeton v. Dep't of Health
& Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir. 1994).
appeal, Plaintiff raises three arguments: (1) the ALJ failed
to properly evaluate the opinion of consultative examiner,
Dr. William Benet, Ph.D., Psy.D.; (2) the ALJ improperly
relied on the mechanical application of the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines; and (3) the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility. Because remand
is required on the first issue raised in the case, it is
unnecessary to review the other two objections to the
ALJ's decision. Freese v. Astrue,
No.8:06-cv-1839-T-EAJ, 2008 WL 1777722, at *3 (April 18, 2008
M.D. Fla)(citing Jackson v. Bowen, 801 F.2d 1291,
1294 n.2 (11th Cir. 1991)).
argues that the ALJ failed to consider the full opinion of
consultative examiner, Dr. Benet. The law is clear that
generally “the ALJ must state with particularity the
weight given to different medical opinions and the reasons
therefor.” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1179 (11th Cir. Jan. 24,
2011). This requirement equally applies to opinion evidence
from examining consulting physicians. See McCloud v.
Barnhart, 166 Fed.Appx. 410, 419)(11thCir.
2006)(remanding where ALJ did not explain weight given to
consulting psychologist's report or the reasons for
discrediting his opinion).
March 6, 2013, Dr. Benet conducted a psychological evaluation
and IQ assessment of Plaintiff. (Tr. 397-401). IQ testing
fell within the borderline range of general intellectual,
which was consistent with Plaintiff's educational
records, clinical history and mental status, all of which
suggested borderline intellectual functioning, as well as a
learning disorder in reading and written language. Dr. Benet
opined that Plaintiff will likely have moderate to marked
difficulty performing work-related mental tasks involving
understanding and memory, sustained concentration and
persistence, social interaction and adaptation. He further
opined that Plaintiff will likely require assistance managing
his benefits. Dr. Benet diagnosed Plaintiff with Learning
Disorder-NOS; Borderline Intellectual Functioning; and a
Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) ...