United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
PATRICIA A. ROSS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
C. IRICK, UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
A. Ross (the Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social
Security's (the Commissioner) final decision denying her
applications for disability benefits. Doc. 1. Claimant argues
that the Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ) erred by: 1)
assigning little weight to Dr. Alyn Benezette's opinion;
2) assigning some weight to Dr. Monivirin Son's opinions;
3) assigning little weight to Dr. Anuranjan Bist's
opinion; 4) assigning great weight to the opinions of two
non-examining state agency physicians; and 5) finding her
testimony concerning her pain and limitations not credible.
Doc. 16 at 22-35. Claimant argues that the matter should be
reversed and remanded for an award of benefits. Id.
at 35. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's final decision is REVERSED and REMANDED
for further proceedings.
September 18, 2009, Claimant filed an application for
disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset
date of June 1, 2008. R. 141-42. On June 6, 2011, the ALJ
entered a decision finding that Claimant was not disabled. R.
33-48. This decision ultimately became the Commissioner's
final decision. R. 1-3.
November 13, 2012, Claimant appealed the Commissioner's
final decision to this Court. Claimant argued that the ALJ
erred by: 1) rejecting Drs. Benezette's, Son's and
Bist's opinions; 2) failing to properly evaluate her
credibility; and 3) relying exclusively on the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the Grids) at step five. R.
1246-47. On September 18, 2013, the Magistrate Judge entered
a report finding that the ALJ did not err in rejecting Dr.
Son's opinions or finding Claimant's testimony
concerning her pain and limitations not credible. R. 1251-52,
1254-55. The Magistrate Judge, however, found that the ALJ
failed to articulate sufficient good cause to reject Drs.
Benezette's and Bist's opinions, and erred by
exclusively relying on the Grids at step five. R. 1249-57. On
October 3, 2013, the Court entered an order adopting the
report, and reversing and remanding the case for further
proceedings. R. 1243.
filed applications for supplemental security income while the
case was pending before this Court, alleging the same
disability onset date as before, June 1, 2008. R. 1346-72. On
December 9, 2013, the Appeals Council, in light of the
Court's order remanding the case, entered an order
vacating its final decision, consolidating Claimant's
applications for disability, and remanded the case to the ALJ
for further proceedings consistent with the Court's order
remanding the case. R. 1261.
December 17, 2014, the ALJ entered a decision again finding
that Claimant was not disabled. R. 1137-52. This decision
ultimately became the Commissioner's final decision. R.
1117-20. This appeal followed.
THE ALJ'S DECISION.
found that Claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments: obesity; coronary artery disease; lumbar
degenerative disc disease; bipolar disorder; and
posttraumatic stress disorder. R. 1140. The ALJ also found
that Claimant suffered from the following non- severe
impairments: status post wrist surgery; tachycardia; and
vertigo. Id. The ALJ found that Claimant did not
meet or equal any listed impairment. R. 1140-41. The ALJ
found that Claimant had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform light work as defined by 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),  with the
following specific limitations:
[T]he claimant requires the option to alternate between
sitting and standing every 30 minutes. She can never climb
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She can occasionally climb
ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and/or crawl. She can
occasionally reach overhead and frequently handle and finger.
She must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations, moving
mechanical parts, and unprotected heights. The claimant is
limited to performing simple tasks with little variation,
which take a short period of time to learn (up to and
including 30 days). She can relate adequately to supervisors,
but is limited to occasional contact with co-workers and no
contact with the general public. She is able [to] deal with
changes in a routine work setting and must avoid
R. 1141-42. The ALJ found that Claimant was not capable of
performing her past relevant work. R. 1150. The ALJ, however,
found that Claimant was capable of performing other work in
the national economy, such as route clerk, blade balancer and
paper pattern folder. R. 1150-51. The ALJ, consequently,
found that Claimant was not disabled from her alleged onset
date, June 1, 2008, through the date of his decision,
December 17, 2014. R. 1151-52.
STANDARD OF REVIEW.
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)). 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 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.
The District Court “‘may not decide the facts
anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for
that of the [Commissioner].'” Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239
(11th Cir. 1983)).
appeal primarily centers on the ALJ's consideration of
Drs. Benezette's, Son's and Bist's opinions. Doc.
16 at 22-31. Claimant argues that the ALJ erred by assigning
some weight to Dr. Son's opinion, and assigning little
weight to Drs. Benezette's and Bist's opinions.
Id. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ
articulated good cause, supported by substantial evidence,
for the weight assigned to each of the challenged opinions.
Doc. 17 at 4-23.
four, the ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC and ability to
perform past relevant work. Phillips, 357 F.3d at
1238. The RFC “is an assessment, based upon all of the
relevant evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to
do work despite his impairments.” Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997). The ALJ
is responsible for determining the claimant's RFC. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1546(c), 416.946(c). In doing so, the
ALJ must consider all relevant evidence, including, but not
limited to, the medical opinions of treating, examining and
non-examining medical sources. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545(a)(3), 416.945(a)(3); see also
Rosario v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 490 F.App'x 192,
194 (11th Cir. 2012).
must consider a number of factors in determining how much
weight to give each medical opinion, including: 1) whether
the physician has examined the claimant; 2) the length,
nature, and extent of the physician's relationship with
the claimant; 3) the medical evidence and explanation
supporting the physician's opinion; 4) how consistent the
physician's opinion is with the ...