United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
C. IRICK, UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Eubanks (Claimant) appeals from a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying
his application for supplemental security income. Docs. 1; 18
at 1; R 17. Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge
(the ALJ) erred by: 1) failing to properly weigh the opinion
of Claimant's treating psychiatrist; 2) failing to
properly characterize Claimant's visual limitations; and
3) posing a hypothetical question to the vocational expert
that, allegedly, did not adequately reflect Claimant's
limitations. Doc. 18 at 2. Claimant argues that the matter
should be reversed and remanded for an award of benefits or,
in the alternative, for further proceedings. Id. at
19-20. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's final decision is
REVERSED and REMANDED for
THE ALJ'S DECISION.
October 10, 2013, Claimant protectively filed an application
for supplemental security income. R. 17. Claimant alleged a
disability onset date of September 20, 2013. Id. The
ALJ issued his decision on March 25, 2015. R. 17-28. The ALJ
found that Claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments: scoliosis, a left eye impairment, and a bi-polar
disorder. R. 19. The ALJ found that Claimant had a residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than a full range
of medium work as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 416.
967(c), with following additional limitations:
[H]e can only occasionally perform tasks requiring far visual
acuity. He can perform only work involving simple tasks and
following simple instructions in an isolated environment,
where he would seldom (defined as less than 1/3 of the work
day) have contact with supervisors, co-workers and the
R. 21. In light of this RFC, the ALJ found Claimant was
capable of performing various jobs in the national economy -
Claimant had no past relevant work. R. 26-27. In light of the
foregoing, the ALJ found that Claimant has not been disabled
since his alleged onset date, October 10, 2013. R.
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) (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)).
maintains that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the opinions
of his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Earl Taitt, M.D., primarily
because the treatment notes from Dr. Taitt were illegible.
Doc. 18 at 7-14. Claimant asserts that it is impossible to
determine “how or even whether” Dr. Taitt's
records were considered, or what his opinions were.
Id. Therefore, Claimant argues that the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence.
Commissioner's position is that the opinions of Dr. Taitt
were discussed and considered by the ALJ, and that
Claimant's “argument that the illegibility of Dr.
Taitt's treatment notes prevented the ALJ from fully
considering them is no more than mere speculation” and,
thus, “is unavailing.” Doc. 20 at 9. While the
Commissioner notes that the ALJ never stated that Dr.
Taitt's notes were illegible or difficult to read, the
Commissioner does not actually assert that Dr. Taitt's
notes are legible.
four, the ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC and ability to
perform past relevant work. 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
is responsible for determining the claimant's RFC. 20
C.F.R. § 416.946(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. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(3);
see also Rosario v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 490 F.
App'x 192, 194 (11th Cir. 2012).
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. §
treating physician's opinion must be given substantial or
considerable weight, unless good cause is shown to the
contrary. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2) (giving
controlling weight to the treating physician's opinion
unless it is inconsistent with other substantial evidence);
see also Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179. There is good
cause to assign a treating physician's opinion less than
substantial or considerable weight, where: 1) the treating
physician's opinion is not bolstered by the evidence; 2)
the evidence supports a contrary ...