United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
R. KLINDT United States Magistrate Judge
Oleatha Parnell (“Plaintiff”) is appealing the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's
final decision denying her claim for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). Plaintiff's alleged
inability to work is the result of bipolar disorder,
depression, osteoporosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease
(“GERD”), irritable bowel syndrome
(“IBS”), and hypothyroidism. Transcript of
Administrative Proceedings (Doc. No. 9; “Tr.” or
“administrative transcript”), filed February 8,
2016, at 188. Plaintiff filed her DIB application on February
18, 2011,  alleging an onset date of June 1, 2006,
Tr. at 156-57, that was later amended to January 21, 2009,
see Tr. at 42, 560. Plaintiff's application was
denied initially, Tr. at 77, 78, 95-96, and upon
reconsideration, Tr. at 79, 80, 101-02.
holding a hearing on February 10, 2012, Tr. at 36-75, an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied
Plaintiff's claim in a decision issued on May 2, 2012,
Tr. at 20-30, that became the final decision of the
Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on November 28, 2012, Tr. at 1-3. But on
appeal to this Court, the May 2, 2012 decision was reversed
on September 10, 2013, and the case was remanded to the
Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. Tr. at
669-78 (September 10, 2013 Order, attached hearing
transcript, and Judgment entered in Parnell v.
Colvin, No. 3:13-cv-47-J-JBT).
remand from this Court, the ALJ held a hearing on August 29,
2014, and testimony was offered by Plaintiff, who was
represented by counsel, as well as by a vocational expert
(“VE”) and a medical expert, Dr. Donald Pollock,
M.D., who is Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist. Tr. at
554-98. On December 3, 2014, the ALJ issued a Decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled “at any time from . . .
the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2011, the date
last insured, ” and denying Plaintiff's
claim. Tr. at 545; see Tr. at 529-46.
then requested review by the Appeals Council, Tr. at 770, and
submitted to the Council additional evidence in the form of a
memorandum by her attorney, Tr. at 523, 524; see Tr.
at 771-74 (memorandum). On September 18, 2015, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
ALJ's Decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Tr. at 519-21. On November 10, 2015, Plaintiff commenced this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by timely filing a
Complaint (Doc. No. 1), seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision.
raises two issues on appeal: (1) whether the ALJ
“erroneously relied on the [VE's] response to an
incomplete hypothetical question that did not include the
need for [Plaintiff] to work in isolation”; and (2)
whether the ALJ “erred in failing to articulate good
cause for failing to credit the opinion of [Plaintiff's]
long-time treating psychiatrist who actually testified at the
remand hearing.” Plaintiff's Brief (Doc. No. 14;
“Pl.'s Br.”), filed April 11, 2016, at 1;
see id. at 9-25. Defendant filed a Memorandum in
Support of the Commissioner's Decision (Doc. No. 15;
“Def.'s Mem.”) on June 9, 2016. After a
thorough review of the entire record and the parties'
respective memoranda, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's final decision is due to be reversed and
remanded for further administrative proceedings.
The ALJ's Decision
determining whether an individual is disabled,  an ALJ must
follow the five-step sequential inquiry set forth in the Code
of Federal Regulations (“Regulations”),
determining as appropriate whether the claimant (1) is
currently employed or engaging in substantial gainful
activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
one listed in the Regulations; (4) can perform past relevant
work; and (5) retains the ability to perform any work in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
see also Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237
(11th Cir. 2004). The claimant 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
the ALJ followed the five-step inquiry. See Tr. at
532-45. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
“did not engage in substantial gainful activity during
the period from her amended alleged onset date of January 21,
2009 through her date last insured of December 31,
2011.” Tr. at 532 (emphasis and citation omitted). At
step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “had the
following severe impairments: disorders of the bladder;
affective disorders; anxiety related disorders; and
personality disorders.” Tr. at 532 (emphasis and
citation omitted). At step three, the ALJ ascertained that
Plaintiff “did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1.” Tr. at 533 (emphasis and citation
determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to “perform medium work .
. . except [she] was limited to no more than simple,
repetitive, routine tasks” and that she “needed
to work in isolation with only occasional interaction with
supervisors, co-workers, and the general public.” Tr.
at 534-35 (emphasis omitted). At step four, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff “has no past relevant work.” Tr.
at 544 (emphasis and citation omitted). At step five, the ALJ
considered Plaintiff's age (fifty-seven (57) years old on
the date last insured), “limited education, ”
work experience, and RFC, and the ALJ determined that
“there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that [Plaintiff] could have
performed.” Tr. at 544 (emphasis and citation omitted).
Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ identified as
representative jobs a “Sweeper/Cleaner,
Industrial”; a “Cleaner, Wall”; and a
“Cleaner, Hospital.” Tr. at 545 (some
concluded that Plaintiff “was not under a disability,
as defined in the Soda! Security Act, at any time from June
1, 2006, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2011,
the date last insured.” Tr. at 545 (emphasis and citation
Standard of Review
Court reviews the Commissioner's final decision as to
disability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Although no
deference is given to the ALJ's conclusions of law,
findings of fact “are conclusive if . . . supported by
‘substantial evidence.'” Doughty v.
Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing
Falge v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir.
1998)). “Substantial evidence is something ‘more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.'” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Hale v.
Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011 (11th Cir. 1987)). The
substantial evidence standard is met when there is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Falge, 150 F.3d at 1322 (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). It is not for this
Court to reweigh the evidence; rather, the entire record is
reviewed to determine whether “the decision reached is
reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.”
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th
Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). The decision reached by the
Commissioner must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence-even if the evidence preponderates
against the Commissioner's findings. Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th
Cir. 2004) (per curiam).
the two issues Plaintiff raises are addressed in turn, and
the undersigned concludes the Decision is due to be reversed
on the basis of the first issue only, with the ALJ to conduct
further proceedings regarding the apparent inconsistency
between the RFC finding and the hypothetical question posed
to the VE.
poses a hypothetical question to a VE as part of his
step-five determination of whether the claimant can obtain
work in the national economy. See Wilson, 284 F.3d
at 1227. When the ALJ relies on the testimony of a VE,
“the key inquiry shifts” from the RFC assessment
in the ALJ's written decision to the adequacy of the RFC
description contained in the hypothetical posed to the VE.
Corbitt v. Astrue, No. 3:07-cv-518-J-HTS, 2008 WL
1776574, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 17, 2008) (unpublished)
determining an individual's RFC and later posing a
hypothetical to a VE that includes the RFC, the ALJ
“must consider limitations and restrictions imposed by
all of an individual's impairments, even those that are
not ‘severe.'” SSR 96-8P, 1996 WL 374184, at
*5; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(2);
Hudson v. Heckler, 755 F.2d 781, 785 (11th Cir.
1985) (stating that “[w]here a claimant has alleged a
multitude of impairments, a claim . . . may lie even though
none of the impairments, considered individually, is
disabling” (internal quotation and citations omitted));
Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1227 (stating that “for a
[VE]'s testimony to constitute substantial evidence, the
ALJ must pose a hypothetical question which comprises all of
the claimant's impairments” (citation omitted)).
the ALJ described to the VE a hypothetical individual who was
“restricted to medium work as defined in the
regulations except with no more than simple, routine,
repetitive tasks with no more than occasional interaction
with supervisors, coworkers, and the general
public.” Tr. at 591-92 (emphasis added). In the
Decision, as quoted above, the ALJ's RFC finding included
that Plaintiff could “perform medium work . . . except
[she] was limited to no more than simple, repetitive, routine
tasks” and that she “needed to work in
isolation with only occasional interaction with supervisors,
co-workers, and the general public.” Tr. at 534-35
(some emphasis omitted).
contends that “[t]he ALJ improperly relied on the
VE's response to an incomplete hypothetical question that
did not match the limitations in the ALJ's [RFC]
assessment.” Pl.'s Br. at 10. Specifically,
Plaintiff argues, “The ALJ's hypothetical question
to the [VE] differed from the . . . [RFC] assessment because
the ALJ failed to include a need to work in
isolation in the hypothetical question.” Pl.'s
Br. at 12 (citing Tr. at 592). The omission is significant,
in Plaintiff's view, because “[t]he addition of a