United States District Court, M.D. Florida
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
GREGORY J. KELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ellis (the “Claimant”) appeals to the District
Court a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”) denying his application of
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Doc. No.
1. Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) erred in his treatment of: 1) the opinions
of Claimant's treating psychiatrist; and 2) a disability
determination by the United States Department of Veterans
Affairs (the “VA”). Doc. No. 18 at 10-14, 17-19.
Claimant requests that the Commissioner's decision be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Id.
at 20. For the reasons set forth below, it is ORDERED that
the Commissioner's final decision be REVERSED and
REMANDED for further proceedings.
4, 2013, Claimant applied for DIB. R. 220. Claimant alleges a
disability onset date of May 31, 2009. R. 216. On August 9,
2013, the Commissioner denied Claimant's application. R.
152. On September 4, 2013, Claimant filed a request for
reconsideration. R. 156. On October 2, 2013, the Commissioner
denied Claimant's request for reconsideration. R. 158. On
October 16, 2013, Claimant filed a request for a hearing
before the ALJ. R. 164. On November 12, 2014, Claimant
attended a video hearing before the ALJ. R. 17, 41-74. On
February 24, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R.
17-35. On April 6, 2015, Claimant filed his request for
review of the ALJ's decision. R. 8. On June 14, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Claimant's request. R. 1-6. On
August 2, 2016, Claimant filed his appeal. Doc. No. 1.
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].'” See 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)).
to Claimant's appeal is the ALJ's treatment of two
opinions from Dr. Lantie Quinones, a VA psychiatrist. R. 634,
640-43. Claimant argues that the ALJ erred by not providing
good cause for giving little weight Dr. Quinones'
opinions. Doc. No. 18 at 10-14. The Commissioner argues that
the ALJ provided good cause reasons for the same.
Id. at 16-17.
March 16, 2011, Claimant underwent an initial mental health
evaluation with Dr. Quinones. R. 429-33. The record shows
Claimant visiting Dr. Quinones multiple times between his
initial evaluation and July 31, 2013. Doc. No. 18 at 2-7, R.
621. On March 13, 2014, Dr. Quinones sent correspondence to
the VA regarding Claimant's mental condition (the
“March Opinion”). R. 634. Dr. Quinones states
that as of March 13, 2014, Claimant was still under his care
at a VA outpatient clinic and is followed monthly due to his
severe anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Id. The
March Opinion also notes that Claimant “continues to
struggle with day to day life…has difficulties with
cognition[, ]and has at times endorsed difficulty with using
familiar tools.” Id. Claimant also has trouble
concentrating and has difficulty leaving the house due to
mood and anxiety problems. Id. Based on the
foregoing, Dr. Quinones found that “it would be very
difficult for him to participate safely in a work setting due
to his illnesses and symptoms…” Id.
April 2, 2014, Dr. Quinones completed a Mental Impairment
Questionnaire (the “April Opinion”). R. 640-43.
In the April Opinion, Dr. Quinones states that he has treated
Claimant for three years and sees him every three months. R.
640. Dr. Quinones diagnosed Claimant with Generalized Anxiety
Disorder, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, Depression not
otherwise specified, social isolation, and chronic migraine
headaches. Id. The April Opinion notes that Claimant
has intermittent panic attacks and short term memory
problems. Id. The April Opinion also states that
Claimant has: 1) moderate restrictions in daily living
activities; 2) extreme difficulties in maintaining social
functioning; and 3) marked difficulties in maintaining
concentration, persistence, or pace. R. 642. Dr. Quinones
believes that Claimant's impairments would cause Claimant
to be absent from work more than four days per month. R. 643.
hearing, the Claimant stated that he has been visiting Dr.
Quinones since 2011:
Q: Is there anything else or any other behavior that you
exhibit during one of these episodes? Aside from the physical
things you just talked about[?]
A: Focusing, thinking pattern-thinking pattern can be