United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal of an
administrative decision denying her applications for a period
of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental security income. Plaintiff alleged that she
became disabled on April 24, 2009. (Tr. 416, 420.)
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration. A hearing was held before an Administrative
Law Judge on August 24, 2011. (Tr. 118-67.) The
Administrative Law Judge found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr.
171-92.) Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council
(Tr. 297) and the Appeals Council remanded the claim in an
order dated September 21, 2012 (Tr. 193-97).
hearing was held before another Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on April 3, 2014. (Tr. 90-117.) On June
13, 2014, the ALJ rendered a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled. (Tr. 198-221.) Plaintiff again requested review of
the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 356-58)
and the Appeals Council again remanded the claim in an order
dated November 10, 2014 (Tr. 222-27).
hearing was held before the ALJ on June 10, 2015, at which
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. (Tr. 48-89.) The
ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled since April 24, 2009, the
alleged onset date, through August 6, 2015, the date of the
decision. (Tr. 16-45.) Plaintiff requested review of the
ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 7-8), but this
time the Appeals Council denied review of the decision (Tr.
is appealing the Commissioner's decision that she was not
disabled during the relevant time period. Plaintiff has
exhausted her available administrative remedies and the case
is properly before the Court. The undersigned has reviewed
the record, the briefs, and the applicable law. For the
reasons stated herein, the undersigned determines that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be AFFIRMED.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the Commissioner's findings are
supported by substantial evidence, Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). 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); 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 v. Chater, 67
F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995); accord Lowery v.
Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating
the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the Commissioner's factual findings).
argues the following three general points on appeal: (a) that
the ALJ erred in failing to properly weigh the record medical
opinions; (b) that the ALJ failed to properly consider
Plaintiff's credibility; and (c) that the ALJ failed to
pose a proper hypothetical question to the vocational expert
(“VE”). (Doc. 19.) Specifically, Plaintiff
contends that the ALJ erred in assigning no weight to the
Psychiatric/Psychological Impairment Questionnaire
(“PIQ”) co-signed by social worker Kathleen
Thunberg and Dr. Melinda Randall on August 27, 2010, wherein
Ms. Thunberg opined that Plaintiff has various marked
limitations, that she is incapable of even low stress jobs,
and that she would miss work more than three (3) times per
month. (Id. at 15-19; Tr. 83-37.) Similarly,
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in giving no weight to
opinions of treating nurse practitioner Cheryl Larkawilla and
treating physician Howard Offenberg, who rendered similar
opinions. Plaintiff further contends that the ALJ's
credibility determination is not supported by substantial
evidence and that the ALJ omitted moderate restrictions from
his hypothetical question posed to the VE. (Id. at
responds that the ALJ sufficiently considered and weighed the
record medical opinions. Further, Defendant contends that the
ALJ provided adequate reasons supported by substantial
evidence for discounting Plaintiff's credibility and that
the ALJ posed a hypothetical to the VE that encompassed all
of Plaintiff's restrictions. (Doc. 23.)
The ALJ's Decision
determined that Plaintiff had severe impairments, including
fibromyalgia, arthritis, sleep apnea, diabetes,
post-traumatic stress disorder, and affective disorders. (Tr.
22.) The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
on with the evaluation, the ALJ made the following RFC
the undersigned finds that the claimant has the [RFC] to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except the claimant can sit up to 6 hours per day,
without interruption for up to one hours [sic] at a time; the
claimant can stand and/or walk up to 2 hours, without
interruption for 15 minutes at a time. The claimant can lift
up to 10 pounds frequently and up to 20 pounds occasionally;
no use of the right upper extremity above head level;
occasional bending and stooping; no crawling; occasional
climbing of stairs; no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
no crouching; occasional kneeling; use of a simple cane when
standing and walking. Additionally, the claimant is limited
to semi-skilled work.
(Tr. 24.) In making this finding, the ALJ did not find any
support for the PIQ signed by Ms. Thunberg and co-signed by
Dr. Randall. The ALJ stated the following in relevant part:
Clearly, [the PIQ] is inconsistent with the findings of Dr.
Stephenson, who noted not [sic] significant issues with
memory, persistence, or pace. The claimant was noted to be in
the average range of intelligence. She had not [sic] problems
with interacting with providers (Exhibit 11F). This is also
true with more recent progress notes from 2014 through 2015,
reflecting no deficits with concentration or memory from
providers at Stewart Marchman (Exhibit 64F). In addition, Ms.
Thumberg's [sic] opinion is inherently inconsistent with
her treatment notes documenting her affect was congruent with
her mood. There was no evidence of thought disorder. She was
fully oriented and appeared to be of average intelligence
with reasonable insight and judgment (Exhibit 32F). In
addition, Dr. Verones' assessment found no memory
deficits and noted that claimant had obtained a college
degree, undermining Ms. Thumberg's [sic] opinions
(Exhibit 49F). Ms. Thumberg [sic] also reassessed the
claimant's GAF score in a subsequent follow-up
appointment to 56, suggesting the claimant's symptoms are
not as severe as Ms. Thumberg [sic] purports (Exhibit 52F).
(Tr. 30.) The ALJ further discussed the opinions of Dr.
Offenberg, Plaintiff's treating physician, with respect
to her physical restrictions. Although the ALJ afforded
“some weight” to Dr. Offenberg's opinions
regarding certain limitations, the ALJ afforded “no
weight” to Dr. Offenberg's opinions regarding
“postural limitations and duration for sitting,
standing, and walking, ” as the evidence did not
support such limitations and his treatment notes did not
document any significant limitations on examinations. (Tr.
30-31.) Similarly, the ALJ afforded “no weight”
to the opinions of nurse practitioner Cheryl Larkawilla, as
her opinions were inconsistent with the evaluations of
examining physicians Drs. Stephenson and Verones, were not
supported by objective evidence, and were not rendered by an
acceptable medical source. (Tr. 31.)
found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments
could reasonably be expected to cause Plaintiff's alleged
symptoms, but that Plaintiff's statements concerning the
intensity, persistence and limiting effects of his symptoms
were not credible for the reasons explained in the decision.
the benefit of testimony from the VE, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was capable of performing her past work as a
receptionist. (Tr. 34.) As such, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not disabled. (Id.)
The ALJ's Properly Weighed the Record ...