United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
C. IRICK UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Coad (Claimant) appeals to the District Court from a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
application for disability insurance benefits. Doc. 1; R.
1-4, 162-65. Claimant argued that the Administrative Law
Judge (the ALJ) erred by: 1) failing to apply the correct
legal standards to the opinion of Bryan H. Heath, M.D.; and
2) failing to apply the correct legal standards to the
opinion of Michael D. Kohen, M.D. Doc. 16 at 16-19, 22-25.
For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's final
decision is AFFIRMED.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
October 2012, Claimant filed an application for disability
insurance benefits. R. 162-65. Claimant alleged a disability
onset date of March 25, 2008. R. 13, 162. Claimant's date
last insured was December 31, 2013. R. 15.
issued her decision on February 27, 2015. R. 13-22. In her
decision, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following
severe impairments: disorders of the spine, hypertension,
diabetes mellitus, obesity, history of fibromyalgia, HLA-B27,
and right ankle tendinosis/tenosynovitis. R. 15. The ALJ also
found that Claimant had the following non-severe impairments:
irritable bowel syndrome, history of left ankle surgery,
affective disorder, and anxiety related disorders.
found that Claimant had a residual functional capacity (RFC)
to perform less than a full range of light work as defined by
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). R. 17. Specifically, the ALJ
found as follows:
[T]hrough the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except with no more than frequent
climbing of ramps and stairs, stooping, kneeling, crouching,
and crawling; no more than occasional climbing of ladders,
ropes and scaffolds; and no concentrated exposure to
vibration or hazards (machinery, heights, etc.).
R. 17. The ALJ posed a hypothetical question to the
vocational expert (VE) that was consistent with the foregoing
RFC determination, and the VE testified that Claimant was
capable of performing jobs in the national economy. R. 45-46.
The ALJ thus found that Claimant was capable of performing
jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy. R. 21-22. Therefore, the ALJ found that Claimant was
not disabled between the alleged onset date and the date last
insured. R. 22.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Social Security appeals, [the court] must determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is ‘supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal
standards.'” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). 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)).
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)).
four of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ assesses
the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
ability to perform past relevant work. Phillips, 357
F.3d at 1238. “The residual functional capacity 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). 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. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1), (3); Rosario v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 877 F.Supp.2d 1254, 1265 (M.D. Fla. 2012).
weighing of treating, examining, and non-examining
physicians' opinions is an integral part of steps four
and five of the sequential evaluation process. In
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176
(11th Cir. 2011), the Eleventh Circuit stated that
“‘Medical opinions are statements from physicians
and psychologists or other acceptable medical sources that
reflect judgments about the nature and severity of [the
claimant's] impairment(s), including [the claimant's]
symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what [the claimant] can
still do despite impairment(s), and [the claimant's]
physical or mental restrictions.'” Id. at
1178-79 (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(a)(2))
(alterations in original). “[T]he ALJ must state with
particularity the weight given to different medical opinions
and the reasons therefor.” Id. at 1179 (citing
Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279 (11th Cir.
1987)). “In the absence of such a statement, it is
impossible for a reviewing court to determine whether the
ultimate decision on the merits of the claim is rational and
supported by substantial evidence.” Id.
(quoting Cowart v. Schwieker, 662 F.2d 731, 735
(11th Cir. 1981)).
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 record as a whole; and 5)
the physician's specialization. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c). A treating physician's opinion must be given
substantial or considerable weight, unless good cause is
shown to the contrary. Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179;
see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2) (giving
controlling weight to the treating physician's opinion
unless it is inconsistent with other substantial evidence).
“Good cause exists when the: (1) treating
physician's opinion was not bolstered by ...