Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pittman v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

February 7, 2017

JANET PITTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MAC R. MCCOY, UNITED STATE? MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Janet Pittman's Complaint (Doc. 1) filed on September 10, 2015. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.[1] The Commissioner filed the Transcript of the proceedings (hereinafter referred to as “Tr.” followed by the appropriate page number), and the parties filed legal memoranda in support of their positions. For the reasons set out herein, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED AND REMANDED pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. Social Security Act Eligibility, the ALJ Decision, and Standard of Review

         A. Eligibility

         The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be severe, making the claimant unable to do her previous work or any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2), 1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 - 404.1511, 416.905 - 416.911. Plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion through step four, while the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).

         B. Procedural History

         On February 18, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). (Tr. at 196, 261-64). Plaintiff asserted an onset date of June 1, 2009. (Tr. at 261). Plaintiff's application was denied initially on April 16, 2010, and on reconsideration on July 28, 2010. (Tr. at 196, 197).

         A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Ronald S. Robbins on October 21, 2011. (Tr. at 121-43). ALJ Robins issued an unfavorable decision on March 6, 2012. (Tr. at 209-15). On June 24, 2013, the Appeals Council reviewed the March 6 decision and remanded the action to an Administrative Law Judge to:

• Further consider the issue of the claimant's performance of substantial gainful activity during the period at issue. In so doing, obtain additional evidence concerning the claimant's work activity and income during the period at issue (20 CFR 404.1571-1576 and 416.971-976; Social Security Rulings 83-33, 83-34, 83-35, and 84-24).
• Obtain additional evidence concerning the claimant's impairments in order to complete the administrative record in accordance with the regulatory standards regarding consultative examinations and existing medical evidence (20 CFR 404.1512-1513). The additional evidence may include, if warranted and available, consultative examinations and medical source statements about what the claimant can still do despite the impairments (20 CFR 404.1520b).

(Tr. at 221-22). On March 10, 2014, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Larry J. Butler held a second hearing. (Tr. at 44-91). On March 25, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision, finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability from June 1, 2009, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date last insured. (Tr. at 12-29).

         On August 11, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. at 1-4). Plaintiff filed a Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on September 10, 2015. This case is ripe for review. The parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings. (See Doc. 17).

         C. Summary of the ALJ's Decision

         An ALJ must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if a claimant has proven that she is disabled. Packer v. Comm'r of Social Security, 542 F. App'x 890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)).[2] An ALJ must determine whether the claimant: (1) is performing substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has a severe impairment that meets or equals an impairment specifically listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) can perform her past relevant work; and (5) can perform other work of the sort found in the national economy. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-40 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant has the burden of proof through step four and then the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Hines-Sharp v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 511 F. App'x 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir. 2013).

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2012. (Tr. at 20).[3] At step one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of June 1, 2009, through her date last insured of December 31, 2012. (Tr. at 20). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: “history of coronary artery disease, history of cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease with corresponding pain, high cholesterol and hypertension (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).” (Tr. at 20).

         At step three, the ALJ determined that through the date of December 31, 2012, the date last insured, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526). (Tr. at 21).

         At step four, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured of December 31, 2012, Plaintiff possessed the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). (Tr. at 21). Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff:

is able to occasionally lift/carry 20-pounds, frequently lift/carry 10-pounds, stand/walk approximately 6-hours during an 8-hour workday and sit approximately 6-hours during an 8-hour workday. The claimant has unlimited ability to push and pull, including operation of hand and/or foot controls. The claimant can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. The claimant can occasionally (up to one-third of a workday) reach overhead with her non-dominant left arm. The claimant has no limitations upon reaching overhead with her dominant right arm. The claimant has no limitation with regard to handling and fingering. The claimant should avoid exposure to hazards such as machinery and unprotected heights.

         (Tr. at 21-22). The ALJ determined that through the date of last insured, December 31, 2012, Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a counselor. (Tr. at 28). The ALJ found that this work did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by Plaintiff's RFC. (Tr. at 28). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability at any time from June 1, 2009, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date last insured. (Tr. at 29).

         D. Standard of Review

         The scope of this Court's review is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard, McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988), and whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). 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); Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401).

         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 v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991); and Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1991). The district court must view the evidence as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the decision. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1560; accord Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (court must scrutinize the entire record to determine reasonableness of factual findings).

         II. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.