United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MIRANDO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Kelly Saienni seeks judicial review of the denial of her
claim for disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) by the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”). The
Court has reviewed the record, the briefs, and the applicable
law. For the reasons set forth herein, the decision of the
Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Issues on Appeal
raises three issues on appeal: (a) whether substantial
evidence supports the administrative law judge's
(ALJ's) determination of Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”); (b) whether the ALJ
presented a proper hypothetical to the vocational expert
(“VE”); and (c) whether the ALJ properly assessed
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
15, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled from April 1, 2011, the alleged onset of disability,
through the date of the decision. Tr. 34. At step one, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30,
2015, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since April 1, 2011. Tr. 21. At step two, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
rheumatoid arthritis, deep venous thrombosis, depression and
anxiety. Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff did not have “an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1.” Tr. 22. The ALJ then determined that
Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work with limitations.
Tr. 24. Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to
perform any past relevant work. Tr. 32. Considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience and RFC, the
ALJ determined there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform
and therefore concluded she was not disabled. Tr. 33-34.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence.
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
390 (1971)). 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., evidence that must do more than
create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be
established, and 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) (internal citations omitted).
Eleventh Circuit has restated that “[i]n determining
whether substantial evidence supports a decision, we give
great deference to the ALJ's fact findings.”
Hunter v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 808 F.3d
818, 822 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). 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 or found that the preponderance of the evidence is
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); see also Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835,
837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating that the court must scrutinize
the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the
factual findings). 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 v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
Whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
determination of Plaintiff's RFC
opinion, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform light work except:
she can never climb ramps or stairs; never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, crouch,
kneel, crawl [ ]; have frequent handling, that is gross
manipulation with both hands; have frequent fingering, that
is fine manipulation; occasional exposure to moving
mechanical parts and unprotected heights; occasionally
operate a motor vehicle; perform simple, routine, and
Tr. 24. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in assessing
Plaintiff's RFC because it does not account for
Plaintiff's cervical spine disorder and carpal tunnel
syndrome. Doc. 17 at 6. In support of her position, Plaintiff
refers to various medical evidence. Id. at 7-10. The
Commissioner responds that substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's RFC findings. Doc. 18 at 10-16.
is the most that a claimant can do despite her limitations.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a). At the hearing
level, the ALJ has the responsibility of assessing a
claimant's RFC. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1546(c). The ALJ is required to assess a claimant's
RFC based on all of the relevant evidence in the record,
including any medical history, daily activities, lay evidence
and medical source statements. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a).
The claimant's age, education, work experience, and
whether she can return to her past relevant work are
considered in determining her RFC, Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f)), and the RFC assessment is
based upon all relevant evidence of a claimant's ability
to do work despite her impairments. Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004);
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440 (citing 20 C.F.R. §
as detailed below, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC based
on the entire record. Tr. 24-32.
Plaintiff's cervical spine impairment
points to an MRI of her cervical spine in 2013, which showed
“[m]oderate-to-large right paracentral disc protrusion
at C5-6 effacing the thecal sac anteriorly impinging on the
cervical cord.” Tr. 601. Based on the MRI, Sergio Luis
Selva, M.D., opined that Plaintiff had
“moderate-to-severe canal stenosis as well as mild
right lateral recess stenosis.” Id. Dr. Selva
opined that this could account for Plaintiff's symptoms.
Tr. 601. Plaintiff also points to the records of a nurse
practitioner supervised by Dr. Mahaney who examined Plaintiff
and noted positive spurling signs ...