United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. RICHARDSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal
of an administrative decision denying her application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). Plaintiff claims that she became
disabled on December 22, 2008. (Tr. 4.) The first
administrative law judge held a hearing on September 27, 2012
(Tr. 10-34), and subsequently issued a decision on October
26, 2012, finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 50-57.) On
November 25, 2012, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals
Council review her decision. (Tr. 181-85.) The Appeals
Council rendered an unfavorable decision on April 4, 2014.
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff then filed a
civil action in the United States District Court for the
Middle District of Florida, arguing that the ALJ failed to
articulate good cause, supported by substantial evidence, to
discount the medical opinions offered by Russell Sachs, M.D.,
Plaintiff's treating pain management physician. On
January 27, 2015, Judge Toomey entered an order reversing the
decision of the ALJ and remanding Plaintiff's claim for
further proceedings. (Tr. 735-39.) Judge Toomey agreed with
Plaintiff that the ALJ's reasons for discrediting Dr.
Sachs's opinions - that the opinions were
“retrospective” and not supported by the
treatment notes, which showed essentially conservative
treatment - were not supported by substantial evidence.
(Id.) Specifically, Judge Toomey noted that Dr.
Sachs treated Plaintiff extensively during the relevant
period and the fact that Dr. Sachs rendered his opinions
after such period did not support affording “little
weight” to the opinions. (Tr. 737.) Judge Toomey also
stated that the ALJ's second reason for discounting the
opinions was vague and that the record supported more than
“conservative treatment.” (Tr. 738.) On remand,
the ALJ was instructed to re-evaluate Dr. Sachs's
opinions and, if discrediting such opinions, to articulate
good cause supported by substantial evidence for doing so.
was provided a new hearing in front of a second
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) and the hearing
was held on July 28, 2015. (Tr. 675-709.) The ALJ rendered a
decision on August 21, 2015, finding Plaintiff not disabled
from December 22, 2008, the alleged onset date, through March
31, 2009, the date last insured.
is appealing the Commissioner's decision that she was not
disabled from December 22, 2008 through March 31, 2009.
Plaintiff has exhausted her available administrative remedies
and the case is properly before the Court. The Court has
reviewed the record, the briefs, and the applicable law. For
the reasons stated herein, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
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).
argues two general points on appeal. First, Plaintiff argues
that the second ALJ also improperly rejected the opinions of
her treating physician, Dr. Sachs. Plaintiff contends that
the ALJ failed to articulate good cause for discounting his
opinions. Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by
affording significant weight to the non-examining physician,
Shakra Junejo, M.D. The Commissioner argues that the
ALJ's evaluation of the medical opinions of record is
clearly articulated and 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). 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. § 404.1527(c)(2)-(6).
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),
“[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, No. 8:06-cv-1863-T-27TGW, 2008 WL
649244, at *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., No. 06-15638, 2007 WL 708971, at *2 (11th
Cir. Mar. 9, 2007) (per curiam); see also Sryock v.
Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 835 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam)
from other sources, e.g., not acceptable medical
sources such as nurse-practitioners, may be used to show the
severity of a claimant's impairments and how it affects
the claimant's ability to work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1513(d); SSR 06-03p. “Since there is a requirement
to consider all relevant evidence in an individual's case
record, the case record should reflect the consideration of
opinions from medical sources who are not ‘acceptable
medical sources' and from ‘non-medical sources'
who have seen the claimant in their professional
capacity.” SSR 06-03p.
The weight to which such evidence may be entitled will vary
according to the particular facts of the case, the source of
the opinion, including that source's qualifications, the
issue(s) that the opinion is about, and many other factors .
. . . However, depending on the particular facts in a case,
and after applying the factors for weighing opinion evidence,
an opinion from a medical source who is not an
“acceptable medical source” may outweigh ...