United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
GREGORY J. KELLY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Czupta (the “Claimant”) appeals to the District
Court a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”) denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Doc. No.
1. Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) committed reversible error by: 1) failing
to weigh a treatment note from Dr. Glenn I. Kolluri; and 2)
applying improper legal standards when determining
Claimant's credibility. Doc. No. 19 at 9-10, 14-17.
Claimant requests that the Commissioner's decision be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Id.
at 20. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's final decision is
REVERSED and REMANDED for
25, 2012, Claimant filed his DIB application alleging an
onset date of August 15, 2011. R. 175. On October 15, 2012,
Claimant's application was denied initially. R. 84. On
May 17, 2013, Claimant's application was denied upon
reconsideration. R. 91. On July 1, 2013, Claimant filed a
request for hearing. R. 97. On February 17, 2015, Claimant
attended a hearing before the ALJ. R. 30-56. On April 24,
2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 11-23.
12, 2015, Claimant requested review of the ALJ's
decision. R. 5-7. On August 1, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied Claimant's request. R. 1-4. On September 9, 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
THE ALJ'S DECISION
two, the ALJ found that Claimant had severe impairments of
benign brain tumors and migraine headaches. R. 13. Central to
this case is the origin of Claimant's headaches. As noted
by the ALJ, the record contains a number of medical opinions
as to whether Claimant's headaches are caused by his
brain tumor. A September 14, 2011 treatment note from Dr.
Rohit Khanna states that Claimant's MRI revealed “a
mass in the right ambient and quadrigeminal cistern with some
mild mass effect in the brain stem.” R. 288. Dr.
Khanna, however, was “not convinced that
[Claimant's] headaches are related to this tumor although
some of the symptoms could be from this mild mass effect that
he has.” R. 290. A September 29, 2011 treatment note
from Dr. William Friedman states that Claimant's brain
tumor “could very well be causing his severe
headaches.” R. 283. A May 16, 2012 treatment note from
Dr. Kolluri states that Claimant's “headaches are
intractable, chronic, and not responding to any of the usual
medications …” R. 299. Dr. Kolluri stated:
“I think [Claimant] needs to see a headache specialist
at Shands Hospital in Gainesville for evaluation
…” Id. Dr. Kolluri referred Claimant to
a neurologist in Gainesville, Florida, Dr. Guangbin Xia, who
in a February 22, 2013 treatment note stated that it is
likely “[Claimant's] tumor is contributing to the
headache.” R. 378. Finally, in a January 23, 2015
headaches medical source statement, Dr. Dina Doolin, D.O. and
Beth Patel, ARNP found that Claimant had severe headaches
which are caused by an epidermoid tumor. R. 489.
four, the ALJ found that Claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with
certain exertional and nonexertional limitations. R. 15. The
ALJ did not state the weight given to Dr. Kolluri's
treatment note and the reasons therefor. R. 18. Instead, the
ALJ found that the treatment note noted “normal
neurological findings and indicate[d] only subjective
complaints of ongoing headaches.” Id. The ALJ
also gave significant weight to the opinions of state agency
non-examining reviewing physicians. R. 21.
also made a determination on Claimant's credibility,
finding that Claimant's “medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms; however, [Claimant's] statements concerning the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of these
symptoms are not entirely credible …” R. 16. The
ALJ gave the following reasons for her finding. First, other
than symptom management, no further treatment had been
recommended. R. 21. Second, Claimant's conditions appear
to be satisfactorily managed with pain medications.
Id. Third, the objective medical evidence does not
suggest that Claimant is disabled and cannot work.
Id. When making her third finding, the ALJ stated
that “no specialist has confirmed that his tumor is
causing [Claimant's] headaches.” Id.
Fourth, Claimant's activities of daily living are
inconsistent with the severity of his alleged headaches.
Id. Finally, “[d]espite being told that opiate
medications could be the source of his issues by [Dr.
Kolluri], [Claimant] did return to taking these type[s] of
medications when offered by [Dr. Lee].” Id.
16, 2012, Dr. Kolluri completed a treatment note stating that
Claimant's headaches are “intractable, chronic, and
not responding to any of the usual medications.” R.
299. The treatment note states that Dr. Kolluri has
no further recommendations for Claimant's headaches other
than having Claimant see a headache specialist. Id.
At step four, the ALJ did not state the weight given to Dr.
Kolluri's treatment note and the reasons therefor. R. 18.
Instead, the ALJ found that Dr. Kolluri's treatment note
noted “normal neurological findings” and
indicated “only subjective complaints of ongoing
headaches …” Id. Claimant argues that
the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to weigh Dr.
Kolluri's treatment note. Doc. No. 19 at 9-10. In
response, the Commissioner questions whether Dr.