United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. RICHARDSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal
of an administrative decision denying her application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), alleging disability beginning July 11,
2011. (Tr. 132.) A hearing was held before the assigned
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 7,
2015, at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (Tr.
32-57.) The ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled from July 11,
2011 through March 6, 2015, the date of the
decision. (Tr. 18-26.)
reaching the decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had
“the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative
disk disease with history of back surgery and bipolar II
disorder.” (Tr. 20.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform a reduced range of light work. (Tr. 21.) After
finding that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past
relevant work, the ALJ found that there were jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 25.)
is appealing the Commissioner's decision that she was not
disabled from July 11, 2011 through March 6, 2015. Plaintiff
has exhausted her available administrative remedies and the
case is properly before the Court. The Court has reviewed the
record, the briefs, and the applicable law. For the reasons
stated herein, the Commissioner's decision is
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the Commissioner's findings are
supported by substantial evidence, Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). 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 district court must view the evidence
as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the decision. Foote v. Chater, 67
F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995); accord Lowery v.
Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating
the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the Commissioner's factual findings).
argues that the ALJ did not provide good cause for rejecting
the opinions of her treating physician, John Carey, M.D.,
because the reasons he offered were either legally
insufficient and/or factually inaccurate. Plaintiff contends
that in formulating the RFC, the ALJ's discussion of the
record was “limited and highly selective.”
Plaintiff adds that in discrediting Dr. Carey's opinions,
the ALJ misrepresented her daily activities. Plaintiff
asserts that by failing to adopt Dr. Carey's assessed
limitations, the ALJ formulated an RFC assessment and
hypothetical questions to the Vocational Expert
(“VE”), which failed to accurately describe all
of Plaintiff's limitations, and as such, the ALJ
improperly relied on the VE's testimony. Plaintiff also
argues that the ALJ erroneously relied on Dr. Charles E.
Moore's non-examining opinions, which were rendered 19
months before the hearing without consideration of Dr.
Carey's subsequent opinions.
responds that the ALJ provided good reasons, supported by
substantial evidence, for giving Dr. Carey's opinions
little weight. The Court agrees with Defendant and,
therefore, affirms the Commissioner's decision.
Standard for Evaluating Opinion Evidence
is required to consider all the evidence in the record when
making a disability determination. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(3). With regard to medical opinion
evidence, “the ALJ must state with particularity the
weight given to different medical opinions and the reasons
therefor.” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1179 (11th Cir. 2011). Substantial
weight must be given to a treating physician's opinion
unless there is good cause to do otherwise. See Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997).
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 v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 1232, 1240-41 (11th Cir. 2004). When a treating
physician's opinion does not warrant controlling weight,
the ALJ must nevertheless weigh the medical opinion based on:
(1) the length of the treatment relationship and the
frequency of examination, (2) the nature and extent of the
treatment relationship, (3) the medical evidence supporting
the opinion, (4) consistency of the medical opinion with the
record as a whole, (5) specialization in the medical issues
at issue, and (6) any other factors that tend to support or
contradict the opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)-(6).
“However, the ALJ is not required to explicitly address
each of those factors. Rather, the ALJ must provide
‘good cause' for rejecting a treating
physician's medical opinions.” Lawton v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 431 F. App'x 830, 833 (11th
Cir. June 22, 2011) (per curiam).
a treating physician's opinion is generally entitled to
more weight than a consulting physician's opinion,
see Wilson v. Heckler, 734 F.2d 513, 518 (11th Cir.
1984) (per curiam); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2),
“[t]he opinions of state agency physicians” can
outweigh the contrary opinion of a treating physician if
“that opinion has been properly discounted, ”
Cooper v. Astrue, 2008 WL 649244, *3 (M.D. Fla. Mar.
10, 2008). Further, “the ALJ may reject any medical
opinion if the evidence supports a contrary finding.”
Wainwright v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 2007
WL 708971, *2 (11th Cir. Mar. 9, 2007) (per curiam); see
also Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 835 (11th Cir.
1985) (per curiam) (same).
ALJ is required to consider the opinions of non-examining
state agency medical and psychological consultants because
they ‘are highly qualified physicians and
psychologists, who are also experts in Social Security
disability evaluation.'” Milner v.
Barnhart, 275 F. App'x 947, 948 (11th Cir. May 2,
2008) (per curiam); see also SSR 96-6p (stating that
the ALJ must treat the findings of State agency medical
consultants as expert opinion evidence of non-examining
sources). While the ALJ is not bound by the findings of
non-examining physicians, the ALJ may not ignore these
opinions and must explain the weight given to them in his
decision. SSR 96-6p.
The ALJ's Decision
found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light exertional
work as follows:
[The claimant] must have a 30-minute sit/stand option. The
claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never
can climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She cannot balance
but can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The
claimant cannot reach overhead or tolerate concentrated
exposure to extreme cold or vibrations. Additionally, the
claimant is limited to simple tasks with little variation
that take a short period of time to learn, up to and
including 30 days. She could tolerate changes in a routine
work setting and tolerate occasional contact with coworkers
and the general public. The claimant could relate adequately
(Tr. 21.) In making this finding, the ALJ considered
Plaintiff's testimony, the Function Report completed on
January 3, 2013, Plaintiff's treatment records, including
the opinions of Dr. Carey, Plaintiff's pain management
specialist at Jacksonville Spine Center, the results of
diagnostic studies, and the ...