United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
D. WHITTEMORE, United States District Judge
THE COURT is the Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge (Dkt. 23), recommending that the
Commissioner's decision denying Plaintiffs claim for
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income be reversed. Defendant filed objections (Dkt.
24), to which Plaintiff responded (Dkt. 25). A district court
may accept, reject, or modify a magistrate judge's report
and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Those
portions of the report and recommendation to which objection
is made are accorded de novo review. Id.;
de novo review of the findings to which objections
are made, and a review of the findings to which objection is
not made for plain error, I find that the Commissioner's
decision must be reversed and the case remanded based on the
Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") failure to
state the weight given to the opinion of Plaintiff s treating
physician and failure to adequately articulate the reason for
discrediting Plaintiffs testimony.
makes two objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation: (1) the finding that the ALJ erred in his
consideration of the opinion of Plaintiffs treating
physician, Dr. Patel; and (2) the finding that the ALJ erred
in his evaluation of Plaintiff s credibility.
administrative law judge's decision is reviewed to
determine whether the correct legal standards were applied,
Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir.
1997) (per curiam), and if the decision as a whole is
supported by substantial evidence, Dyer v. Barnhart,
395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is
"more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as
a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Winschel v. Commissioner of Soc.
Sec, 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). The court "may
not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner]." Id. (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted). Legal conclusions of the
administrative law judge, however, are reviewed de novo.
Ingram v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec, 496 F.3d 1253, 1260
(11th Cir. 2007).
is a five-step, sequential evaluation process to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. Winschel, 631 F.3d
at 1178 (citing Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1238 (11th Cir. 2004)). The first three steps evaluate
whether (1) the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity, (2) the claimant has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments, and (3) the impairment meets or
equals the severity of the specified impairments in the
Listing of Impairments. Id. The fourth step asks
whether, based on the claimant's residual functional
capacity ("RFC") assessment, the claimant can
perform any of her past relevant work despite the limitations
caused by her impairments. Id. At the fourth step,
the administrative law judge considers "all the relevant
medical and other evidence" in the case record to
determine the claimant's RFC. Phillips, 357 F.3d
at 1238 (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)). The claimant
bears the burden of establishing that she cannot perform her
past relevant work based on her RFC. Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999). If the claimant
establishes that she cannot perform her past relevant work,
the burden shifts to the administrative law judge at the
fifth step to determine whether there are significant numbers
of other jobs in the national economy the claimant can
perform, given her RFC, age, education, and work experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178; Jones, 190 F.3d
determined, as to steps one through three, that Plaintiff had
not been engaged in substantial gainful activity and she has
severe impairments including "hypertension,
anthropathies, lesion in the paramedian right frontal lobe,
anxiety disorder, and affective mood disorder, " but her
impairments do not meet or medically equal the severity of
listed impairments (Decision, Tr. 60). The ALJ further
concluded at step four that she has the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform medium work, limited to occasional
stooping, handling and fingering bilaterally frequently, and
performing simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. (Tr. 61).
Based on Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, RFC, and
testimony of the vocational expert (VE), the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 63-65). The Magistrate Judge
recommended, after a thorough review of the ALJ's
findings and conclusions, that the decision of the ALJ be
reversed because (1) the ALJ failed to state the weight given
to Plaintiffs treating physician, which was inconsistent with
the ALJ's RFC assessment and (2) the ALJ did not
articulate adequate reasons for discrediting Plaintiffs
statements about her pain. (Report and Recommendation, Dkt.
The ALJ's Findings Relating to Dr. Patel, Plaintiff's
objects to the Magistrate's conclusion that the ALJ's
failure to state the weight given to the opinion of Dr.
Patel, Plaintiffs treating physician, was not harmless.
Acknowledging that the ALJ did not state what weight she gave
to Dr. Patel's opinion, Defendant argues that the ALJ
properly considered Dr. Patel's opinion and must have
given it little or no weight, because assigning little or no
weight would be supported by substantial evidence. (See Dkt.
19 at 6).
must "state with particularity the weight given to
different medical opinions, and the reasons therefore."
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179. The opinion of a
treating physician "must be given substantial or
considerable weight unless 'good cause' is shown to
the contrary." Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d
1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Jones v.
Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001, 1005 (11th Cir. 1986)
("[A]bsent 'good cause, ' the opinion of a
claimant's treating physician must be accorded
'[G]ood 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, 357 F.3d at 1241. "With good cause,
an ALJ may disregard a treating physician's opinion, but
he 'must clearly articulate [the] reasons' for doing
so." Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179 (quoting
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1240-41). The ALJ "
'must specify what weight is given to a treating
physician's opinion and any reason for giving it no
weight, and failure to do so ...