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Montgomery v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 30, 2017

MICHAEL WAYNE MONTGOMERY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          DANIEL C. IRICK, UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Michael Wayne Montgomery (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social Security’s final decision denying his applications for disability benefits. Doc. 1. Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred by: 1) assigning little weight to Dr. Nila Desai’s opinion; and 2) failing to properly consider Claimant’s exertional and nonexertional limitations. Doc. 13 at 5-11. Claimant requests that the matter be reversed and remanded for an award of benefits. Id. at 11. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner’s final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY.

         This case stems from Claimant’s applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. R. 258-67. Claimant alleged a disability onset date of August 1, 2010. R. 258, 260. On May 8, 2012, the ALJ originally assigned to this case entered a decision finding that Claimant was capable of performing light work and could perform his past relevant work. R. 126-31. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Claimant was not disabled. R. 132. The Appeals Council entered a decision on April 22, 2013, finding that the ALJ erred in determining that Claimant could perform his past relevant work, and, thus, vacated the ALJ’s decision and remanded the matter to another ALJ for further consideration consistent with Appeals Council’s decision. R. 138-39. Claimant, subsequently, amended his disability applications to a closed period of disability from August 1, 2010 to January 1, 2014. R. 47-48.

         II. THE ALJ’S DECISION.

         The ALJ issued the operative decision on November 25, 2014. R. 18-30. The ALJ found that Claimant had the following severe impairments during the closed period: a history of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without neuropathy; depression; anxiety; and a history of obesity. R. 21. The ALJ found that Claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any listed impairment. R. 21-22

         The ALJ found that Claimant has the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[Claimant can] lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds or less more frequently. He can sit, stand and walk (with normal breaks) for a total of about 6 hours each in an 8-hour workday. He could occasionally perform pushing and/or pulling with arm, hand or foot/pedal controls. He could occasionally climb ramps and stairs but perform no climbing of ropes, ladders and scaffolding. He could frequently balance, sto[o]p, kneel, crouch or crawl. He had no manipulative limitations in the upper extremities concerning reaching in all directions, handling, fingering or feeling. He has no limitations in his ability to hear, speak or see. He could work in temperature-controlled environments but has to avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, vibration or dangerous moving machinery. He was able to understand, remember and carry out simple and semiskilled tasks up to an SVP level of 4. He had no limitations in dealing with people, but has to avoid work requiring that he meet any strict production goals or quotas such as assembly line work or work that is paid by the piece.

R. 22-23.[1] The ALJ, in light of this RFC, found that Claimant was unable to perform his past relevant work. R. 27-28. The ALJ, however, found that Claimant could perform other work in the national economy, such as mailroom clerk, office helper, ticket seller, food and beverage clerk, and surveillance system monitor. R. 28-29. Thus, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled between his alleged onset date, August 1, 2010, through the date of the decision, November 25, 2014. R. 29.[2]

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW.

         “In 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) (quotations 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)).

         IV. ANALYSIS.

         A. Medical Opinion.

         Claimant maintains that the ALJ’s reasons for assigning little weight to Dr. Desai’s opinion are not supported by substantial evidence. Doc. 13 at 5-7. Thus, Claimant argues that ALJ erred by assigning little weight to Dr. Desai’s opinion. Id. The Commissioner maintains that the ALJ provided good cause reasons for assigning Dr. Desai’s opinion little weight, each of which are supported by substantial evidence. Doc. 15 at 6-13. Thus, the Commissioner argues that the ALJ did not err by assigning little weight to Dr. Desai’s opinion. Id.

         The ALJ assesses the claimant’s RFC and ability to perform past relevant work at step four of the sequential evaluation process. 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 ...


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