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Castle v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division

May 10, 2017



          PHILIP R. LAMMENS United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff appeals the administrative decision denying her applications for Disability .Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Upon a review of the .record, the memoranda, and the applicable law, I submit that the Commissioner's decision should be AFFIRMED.

         I. Background.

         In December 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI benefits, alleging disability beginning February 28, 2009. (Tr. 202-08, 209-15). The claim was denied initially, and upon reconsideration. At Plaintiffs request, a hearing was held on August 22, 2014, where both the Plaintiff and an impartial vocational expert testified. On September 19, 2014. the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a notice of unfavorable decision, finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 19-36). Plaintiffs request for review was denied by the Appeals Council (Tr. 1-4), and Plaintiff initiated this action on April 8, 2016. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies, and the final decision of the Commissioner is ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Based on a review of the record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, hypertension, and migraine headaches. (Tr. 21).

         The ALJ found that the Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of medium work. (Tr. 23). The ALJ found that Plaintiff can occasionally lift and/or carry fifty pounds, and frequently lift and/or carrying twenty-five pounds. She can sit, stand, and walk for six hours each in an eight-hour day. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant should avoid exposure to extremes in temperatures, and workplace hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights. She can perform simple tasks and make simple work-related decisions. The claimant can have no more than occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors, and is unable to interact with the public. That time off task be accommodated by normal breaks.

         Based upon his RFC, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, such as kitchen helper, laundry worker, and cook helper. (Tr. 34-35). The ALJ's finding includes his consideration of Plaintiffs limitations that erode the unskilled medium occupational base, and the vocational expert's testimony regarding what functions Plaintiff could perform in light of her limitations. (Tr. 35). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Tr. 35-36).

         II. Standard of Review

         A claimant is entitled to disability benefits when he or she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to either result in death or last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§416(i)(1), 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. §404.1505(a).

         The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential analysis for evaluating a claim of disability, which is by now well-known and otherwise set forth in the ALJ's decision. See 20 CFR §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The claimant, of course, 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 n. 5 (1987).

         The scope of this Court's review is limited to a determination of whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence. McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988)(citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971)). Indeed, 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) and Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); accord Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991). 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, 937 F.2d at 584 n.3; Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1991). This is clearly a deferential standard.

         III. Discussion

         Here, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate her mental impairments and improperly concluded that she could maintain full-time employment. However, other than citing to various mental health records, all of which the ALJ expressly considered, Plaintiff fails to explain how the ALJ erred in evaluating the evidence or how the records support greater limitations than those included in the RFC. After reviewing the record, I submit that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff s mental limitations, and thus, his decision should be affirmed.

         The ALJ discussed Plaintiffs treatment for mental health issues which does not support disabling limitations. In January 2012, Plaintiff was seen by Anna B. Schwait, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at Archer Family Health Care. (Tr. 478-81). Plaintiff reported "doing terrible" and stated that she has been dealing with inattentiveness all of her life. Plaintiffs mental status assessment was normal and she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, posttraumatic stress ...

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