United States District Court, M.D. Florida
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
GREGORY J. KELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Woodard (the “Claimant”) appeals to the District
Court a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”) denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Doc. No. 1.
Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) committed reversible error by applying
improper legal standards to the medical opinions of Drs.
Michael L. Zelkowitz and James Hunt. Doc. No. 17 at 11-20.
Claimant requests that the Commissioner's decision be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Id.
at 25. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and
REMANDED for further proceedings.
February 27, 2013, Claimant filed his SSI application. R.
230. Claimant alleges a disability onset date of May 15,
2012. Id. On April 18, 2013, Claimant's
application was denied initially. R. 152. On May 23, 2013,
Claimant's application was denied upon reconsideration.
R. 161. On June 27, 2013, Claimant filed a request for
hearing. R. 167. On April 13, 2015, Claimant attended a
hearing before the ALJ. R. 41-94. On May 8, 2015, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision. R. 21-34. On June 29, 2015,
Claimant requested review of the ALJ's decision. R.
12-17. On October 28, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Claimant's request. R. 1-5. On December 21, 2016,
Claimant filed his appeal. Doc. No. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Social Security regulations delineate a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th
Cir. 1999) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520). 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) (citations and
WEIGHING MEDICAL OPINIONS
the opinions and findings of treating, examining, and
non-examining physicians is an integral part in determining
whether a claimant is disabled. In cases involving an
ALJ's handling of medical opinions,
“substantial-evidence review . . . involves some
intricacy.” Gaskin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
533 Fed.Appx. 929, 931 (11th Cir. 2013). In Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176 (11th Cir.
2011), the Eleventh Circuit held that whenever a physician
offers a statement reflecting judgments about the nature and
severity of a claimant's impairments, including symptoms,
diagnosis, and prognosis, what the claimant can or cannot do
despite his or her impairments, and the claimant's
physical and mental restrictions, the statement is a medical
opinion requiring the ALJ to state with particularity the
weight given to it and the reasons therefor. Id. at
1178-79 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(a)(2),
416.927(a)(2); Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279
(11th Cir. 1987)). “In the absence of such a statement,
it is impossible for a reviewing court to determine whether
the ultimate decision on the merits of the claim is rational
and supported by substantial evidence.”
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179 (citations omitted).
See also MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053
(11th Cir. 1986) (failure to state with particularity the
weight given to opinions and the reasons therefor constitutes
reversible error). An ALJ may not “implicitly
discount” or ignore any medical opinion.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178-79; MacGregor,
786 F.2d at 1053; McClurkin v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 625
Fed.Appx. 960, 962-63 (11th Cir. 2015) (reversible error for
an ALJ to fail to state weight given to non-examining
February 3, 2012, Dr. Zelkowitz completed a form regarding
Claimant's physical ability to do work-related activities
(the “PRFC Form”). R. 349-54. The following is
taken from the PRFC Form. Claimant can occasionally lift or
carry up to ten pounds, but cannot lift or carry over ten
pounds. R. 349. Claimant can sit for a total of two hours in
an eight-hour workday and stand or walk for one hour in an
eight-hour workday. R. 350. Claimant can never reach overhead
or operate foot controls. R. 351. He can never climb ladders
or scaffolds, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. R.
352. Dr. Zelkowitz did not provide any medical or clinical
findings in support of his opinion. R. 349-354.
two, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following severe
impairments: osteoarthritis of the right shoulder,
degeneration of the spine, ADHD, depression, anxiety,
personality disorder, and bipolar disorder. R. 23. At step
four, the ALJ found that Claimant had the Residual Functional
Capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work except
that Claimant cannot: 1) lift and carry more than twenty
pounds occasionally; 2) lift and carry more than ten pounds
frequently; 3) stand and walk for more than six hours in an
eight-hour workday; 4) sit for more than six hours in an
eight-hour workday; 5) do more than occasional balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, or climbing of ramps and
stairs; and 6) crawl or climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds. R. 25. The ALJ gave little weight to the
Little weight is given to the opinion of Dr. Zelkowitz at
[R. 349-54]. Dr. Zelkowitz, an anesthesiologist, opined
that [Claimant] was limited to perform less than even
sedentary exertional work. Such extreme limitations are not
supported by the medical evidence, and inasmuch as Dr.
Zelkowitz did not cite medical evidence in support of his
opinion, it is of little probative value.
R. 32 (emphasis added). Thus, the ALJ gave little weight to
the PRFC Form because Dr. Zelkowitz did not cite medical
evidence in support of his opinion. Id. Claimant
argues that the ALJ committed reversible error by giving