United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THIS CAUSE is before the Court on
Plaintiff's appeal of an administrative decision denying
her applications for a Period of Disability, Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). Plaintiff alleges she
became disabled on January 6, 2012. (Tr. 18, 38, 265.) A
hearing was held before the assigned Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on September 25, 2014, at which Plaintiff
was represented by an attorney. (Tr. 36-62.) The ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled from January 6, 2012 through October
20, 2014, the date of the decision. (Tr. 18-29.)
reaching the decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had
“the following severe impairments: disorders of the
spine; an affective mood disorder; an anxiety-related
disorder; headaches; and hypertension.” (Tr. 20.) The
ALJ also found that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform “light or
sedentary work” with additional restrictions. (Tr. 22.)
is appealing the Commissioner's decision that she was not
disabled from January 6, 2012 through October 20, 2014.
Plaintiff has exhausted her available administrative remedies
and the case is properly before the Court. The undersigned
has reviewed the record, the briefs, and the applicable law.
For the reasons stated herein, the Commissioner's
decision is REVERSED and REMANDED.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the Commissioner's findings are
supported by substantial evidence, Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). 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 district court must view the evidence
as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the decision. Foote v. Chater, 67
F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995); accord Lowery v.
Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating
the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the Commissioner's factual findings).
raises three issues on appeal. First, Plaintiff argues that
although the ALJ gave significant weight to the opinions of
the State agency non-examining physicians (Dr. Sunita Patel
and Dr. Linda O'Neil), he failed to incorporate some of
their limitations in the RFC assessment and failed to explain
why he rejected these limitations. Second, Plaintiff argues
that the ALJ erred in rejecting Dr. Atul Shah's treating
opinions, while giving significant weight to Dr.
O'Neil's non-examining opinions, in assessing
Plaintiff's RFC. Finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ
improperly relied on the testimony of the Vocational Expert
(“VE”) because it was based on an incomplete
hypothetical question. Defendant responds that the ALJ
properly evaluated the medical opinions of record, and his
RFC assessment and hypothetical question to the VE are
supported by substantial evidence.
Standard for Evaluating Opinion Evidence
is required to consider all the evidence in the record when
making a disability determination. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(3), 416.920(a)(3). With regard to
medical opinion evidence, “the ALJ must state with
particularity the weight given to different medical opinions
and the reasons therefor.” Winschel v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1179 (11th Cir. 2011).
Substantial weight must be given to a treating
physician's opinion unless there is good cause to do
otherwise. See Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1440 (11th Cir. 1997).
cause' exists when the: (1) treating physician's
opinion was not bolstered by the evidence; (2) evidence
supported a contrary finding; or (3) treating physician's
opinion was conclusory or inconsistent with the doctor's
own medical records.” Phillips v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 1232, 1240-41 (11th Cir. 2004). When a treating
physician's opinion does not warrant controlling weight,
the ALJ must nevertheless weigh the medical opinion based on:
(1) the length of the treatment relationship and the
frequency of examination, (2) the nature and extent of the
treatment relationship, (3) the medical evidence supporting
the opinion, (4) consistency of the medical opinion with the
record as a whole, (5) specialization in the medical issues
at issue, and (6) any other factors that tend to support or
contradict the opinion. 20 C.F.R. §§
a treating physician's opinion is generally entitled to
more weight than a consulting physician's opinion, see
Wilson v. Heckler, 734 F.2d 513, 518 (11th Cir.
1984) (per curiam); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2),
416.927(c)(2), “[t]he opinions of state agency
physicians” can outweigh the contrary opinion of a
treating physician if “that opinion has been properly
discounted, ” Cooper v. Astrue, 2008 WL
649244, *3 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 10, 2008). Further, “the ALJ
may reject any medical opinion if the evidence supports a
contrary finding.” Wainwright v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 2007 WL 708971, *2 (11th Cir. Mar. 9, 2007)
(per curium). See also Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d
834, 835 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam) (same).
ALJ is required to consider the opinions of non-examining
state agency medical and psychological consultants because
they ‘are highly qualified physicians and
psychologists, who are also experts in Social Security
disability evaluation.'” Milner v.
Barnhart, 275 F. App'x 947, 948 (11th Cir. May 2,
2008) (per curiam). See also SSR 96-6p (stating that
the ALJ must treat the findings of State agency medical
consultants as expert opinion evidence of non-examining
sources). While the ALJ is not bound by the findings of
non-examining physicians, the ALJ may not ignore these
opinions and must explain the weight given to them in his
decision. SSR 96-6p.