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Dalrymple v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

September 18, 2017

RONALD GERALD DALRYMPLE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on consideration of Magistrate Judge Carol Mirando's Report and Recommendation (Doc. #19), filed on August 10, 2017, recommending that the Decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. On August 24, 2017, plaintiff filed his Objections to Report and Recommendation Dated August 10, 2017 (Doc. #20).

         I.

         The Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if it is supported by substantial evidence and based upon proper legal standards. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997)). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158-59). Even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's findings, the Court must affirm if the decision reached is supported by substantial evidence. Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158-59 (citing Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)). The Court does not decide facts anew, make credibility judgments, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Moore, 405 F.3d at 1211 (citing Bloods worth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)); Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)). The Court reviews the Commissioner's conclusions of law under a de novo standard of review. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529).

         II.

         The Magistrate Judge recommends that the ALJ provided good cause for giving little weight to Dr. Galang's March 2011 and January 2013 opinions on plaintiff's ability to work based on the medical treatment notes over the course of treatment indicating to the contrary. (Doc. #12-7, Tr. 417-420; Doc. #12-8, Tr. 491-494.) The Magistrate Judge further noted the Commissioner's argument that the January 2013 opinion was a form questionnaire, but the Magistrate Judge did not conclude that the ALJ rejected the opinion on this basis. The Magistrate Judge recommends that the ALJ's decision to discount plaintiff's credibility as to his subjective complaints was supported by substantial evidence.

         The Magistrate Judge also recommends finding that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that plaintiff could perform his past relevant work because Dr. Galang's opinions were properly discounted. The Magistrate Judge further recommends finding no error in the ALJ's reliance on the testimony of the vocational expert, or the determination based on the testimony.

         III.

         Plaintiff objects that the ALJ did not provide explicit and adequate reasons for rejecting the March 9, 2011 opinion of a treating physician, Dr. Galang. Specifically that the ALJ failed to discuss how Dr. Galang's opinion that plaintiff could not tolerate sitting or standing for more than about 15 minutes at a time was inconsistent with plaintiff's daily activities, and that the ALJ failed to discuss what “other observation” supported rejection of Dr. Galang's opinion.

         The Court finds that the ALJ never explicitly rejected the medical diagnosis or medical opinion of Dr. Galang, but rather found that the speculation that plaintiff could not tolerate sitting for more than 15 minutes or that he was unable to continue his practice was unsupported by the medical findings, and should be given little weight in light of plaintiff's daily activities and the ALJ's own observations of plaintiff. (Doc. #12-2, Tr. 46.)

         The ALJ found that plaintiff's subjective pain complaints were not fully credible as they were inconsistent with the totality of the medical evidence. (Id., Tr. 45.) The ALJ “observed” plaintiff, and noted no obvious pain or discomfort during the hearing, and noted that he lacked the general physical appearance of someone who might have been experiencing prolonged or severe pain. (Id., Tr. 44.) The ALJ found “the totality of the supporting medical evidence does not provide clinical correlation of his symptomology to the degree of debility alleged with objective findings on examination.” (Id., Tr. 45.)

         After hearing plaintiff's testimony, the ALJ noted that plaintiff had an active driver's license, drives daily, and runs errands or sees a patient or two before returning home. The ALJ noted that plaintiff works part-time at his psychology practice, for 2-3 hours a day, and that he last worked full-time in November 2010, but was still seeing patients in early 2013.[1] (Id., Tr. 42, 44.) The ALJ went on to note that plaintiff performed housekeeping in short bursts[2], prepares simple meals in the microwave, but does not socialize or go out much due to his condition[3], but regularly drives to North Florida[4]. (Id., Tr. 42-43, 45.) Plaintiff had no hospitalizations in the previous 12 months, and no emergency room visits in the previous 6 months. (Id., Tr. 83.)

         The ALJ concluded that plaintiff's “impairment or combination of impairments” did not significantly limit his ability to perform basic work-related activities based on symptoms “consistent with the objective medical evidence”, and the observations noted above. (Doc. #12-2, ...


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