United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 
R. KLINDT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Monique Brown (“Plaintiff”), who originally was
found to be disabled by the Social Security Administration
(“Administration”), is appealing the
Administration's final decision finding that as of
January 1, 2013, she is no longer disabled and therefore
ineligible for continued supplemental security income
(“SSI”). Plaintiff suffers from a “disc
problem in [her] low back, nerve damage, depression, and
asthma.” Transcript of Administrative Proceedings (Doc.
No. 11; “Tr.” or “administrative
transcript”), filed December 27, 2016, at 125. The
original finding of disability was made in July 2004 and was
based upon symptoms resulting from “severe spinal
disorder and schizoaffective disorder.” Tr. at 125;
see Tr. at 104-08, 137.
Administration conducted a review of Plaintiff's
disability status, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(a),
and made an initial determination on January 15, 2013 that
Plaintiff is no longer disabled as of January 2013, Tr. at
120-24, 125. Plaintiff sought reconsideration of that
determination. Tr. at 127. The matter was referred to a State
Agency Disability Hearing Officer (“hearing
officer”), who held a hearing on May 20, 2013 and then
issued a decision on June 20, 2013 upholding the original
determination. Tr. at 135-44, 145-49.
then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Tr. at 150. Plaintiff, who was
unrepresented at the time, failed to appear at a hearing set
for March 20, 2014. Tr. at 115, 175. On that same date, the
ALJ issued a Notice to Show Cause for Failure to Appear.
See Tr. at 176-77. On April 8, 2014, after Plaintiff
failed to respond to the Notice, the ALJ dismissed
Plaintiff's request for a hearing. Tr. at 116. On
November 7, 2014, the Appeals Council found that
“[Plaintiff] had a good reason for not appearing at the
hearing” because the Notice of Hearing and the Order to
Show Cause had been sent to the incorrect address. Tr. at
118. The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's order of
dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. Tr.
October 23, 2015, an ALJ presided over a hearing at which
Plaintiff appeared and was represented by counsel. Tr. at
41-98. During the hearing, the ALJ heard from Plaintiff, Tr.
at 53-89, and from a vocational expert (“VE”),
Tr. at 91-96. Following the hearing, on February 2, 2016, the
ALJ issued a Decision finding that Plaintiff's disability
ended as of January 1, 2013. Tr. at 15-29. Plaintiff then
requested review by the Appeals Council. Tr. at 11. On August
22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, Tr. at 1-3, making the ALJ's Decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. On October 25, 2016,
Plaintiff commenced this action through counsel under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) by timely filing a
Complaint (Doc. No. 1) seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision.
makes two arguments on appeal. See Plaintiff's
Brief (Doc. No. 14; “Pl.'s Br.”), filed
February 27, 2017, at 2, 14-17 (first argument), 17-22
(second argument). First, Plaintiff claims that “[t]he
ALJ's finding that medical improvement occurred as of
January 1, 2013, is not based on the correct legal standards
or supported by substantial evidence.” Pl.'s Br. at
14 (emphasis omitted). Plaintiff argues that “the ALJ
did not actually compare [Plaintiff's] original medical
evidence and the current medical evidence.”
Id. at 16. Second, Plaintiff contends that
“[t]he ALJ failed to apply the correct legal standards
to the medical opinions of record, ” id. at 17
(emphasis omitted), specifically the opinions of Dr. Odinachi
Oguh and Dr. Robert Schnipper, id. at 17-22.
Defendant responded on April 27, 2017 by filing a Memorandum
in Support of the Commissioner's Decision (Doc. No. 15;
thorough review of the entire record and the parties'
respective memoranda, the undersigned recommends that the
Commissioner's final decision be reversed and remanded
for further administrative proceedings. As to Plaintiff's
first argument, the undersigned finds that the ALJ erred in
determining medical improvement occurred because the ALJ did
not make the required comparison between the evidence upon
which the original disability determination was based and the
evidence post-dating that decision.
remand, a proper comparison of the medical evidence may
impact the ALJ's findings with respect to the various
medical opinions of record (Plaintiff's second argument
on appeal). For this reason, the Court need not address
Plaintiff's second argument. See Jackson v.
Bowen, 801 F.2d 1291, 1294 n.2 (11th Cir. 1986) (per
curiam) (declining to address certain issues because they
were likely to be reconsidered on remand); Demenech v.
Sec'y of the Dep't of Health & Human Servs.,
913 F.2d 882, 884 (11th Cir. 1990) (per curiam) (concluding
that certain arguments need not be addressed when the case
would be remanded on other issues).
The ALJ's Decision
typically follows a five-step sequential inquiry set forth in
the Code of Federal Regulations (“Regulations”)
when deciding whether an individual is disabled,
determining as appropriate whether the claimant (1) is
currently employed or engaging in substantial gainful
activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
one listed in the Regulations; (4) can perform past relevant
work; and (5) retains the ability to perform any work in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
see also Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir.
2004). The claimant bears the burden of persuasion through
step four, and at step five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
ALJ is determining whether a disability has ended, however,
the Regulations mandate following a different sequential
inquiry. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1594(f), 416.994(b).
This sequential inquiry asks, in substance, whether a
claimant (1) has an impairment or combination of impairments
that meets or medically equals one listed in the Regulations;
(2) has experienced medical improvement; (3) has experienced
medical improvement that is related to the ability to work;
(4) has experienced medical improvement, but an exception to
the medical improvement applies; (5) has current impairments
that when considered in combination are severe; (6) can
perform past relevant work; and (7) can perform other work
that exists in the national economy. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1594(f), 416.994(b). “When considering a
case for termination or cessation of benefits, . . . the
burden is on the Commissioner to prove that the claimant is
no longer disabled as of the cessation date because the
Plaintiff had experienced ‘medical
improvement.'” Townsend v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 6:13-cv-1783-Orl-DAB, 2015 WL 777630, at *3
(M.D. Fla. Feb. 24, 2015) (unpublished) (emphasis omitted)
(citing Simpson v. Schweiker, 691 F.2d 966, 969
(11th Cir. 1982)), superseded by statute on other grounds as
stated in Elam v. R.R. Ret. Bd., 921 F.2d 1210, 1214
(11th Cir. 1991); Hie v. Bowen, 788 F.2d 698 (11th
Cir. 1986); Carbonyl v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
6:11-cv-400-Or-22DAB, 2012 WL 1946070, at *3-4 (M.D. Fla. M a
y 11, 2012) (unpublished report and recommendation),
adopted, 2012 WL 1946072, at *1 (unpublished order).
prior to engaging in the seven-step sequential inquiry, the
ALJ found as follows:
1. The most recent favorable medical decision finding that
[Plaintiff] was disabled is the decision dated July 28, 2004.
This is known as the “comparison point decision”
2. At the time of the CPD, [Plaintiff] had the following
medically determinable impairments: a spinal disorder and a
schizoaffective disorder. These impairments were found to
result in the following residual functional capacity
[(“RFC”)]: no lifting or carrying more than
[five] pounds on occasion, no standing/walking for more than
[two] hours in a workday, no sitting for even [six] hours ...