United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division
OLIVIA L. MOORE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
CHARLES J. KAHN, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case is before the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
for review of a final determination of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying Olivia
L. Moore's application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34. The
parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 73 for all proceedings in the case, including entry
of final judgment. Upon review of the record before the
court, I conclude the findings of fact and determinations of
the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence. The
decision of the Commissioner, therefore, will be affirmed and
claimant's application for benefits will be denied.
Moore, who will be referred to as claimant, plaintiff, or by
name, raises 3 issue on appeal, arguing the ALJ erred in (1)
disregarding the opinion of her treating physician, Michael
Barnes, M.D.; (2) failing to consider the combination of her
impairments; and (3) failing to find obesity a medically
determinable severe impairment, either singly or in
combination with her other impairments.
Moore filed an application for DIB in February 2013, alleging
disability beginning March 1, 2009. T. 84,
165-70. Her claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. T. 92, 105-10. After filing a request for a
hearing, Ms. Moore appeared before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on February 3, 2015. T. 51-83. On
March 20, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Ms.
Moore's claim for benefits. T. 8-50. Ms. Moore petitioned
the Appeals Council for review of the ALJ's decision.
T.6. The Appeals Council denied the request; as a result, the
ALJ's decision became the final determination of the
Commissioner. T. 1-4.
OF THE ALJ
written decision, the ALJ made a number of findings relevant
to the issues raised in this appeal:
• “Through the date last insured, the claimant had
the following severe impairments: major depression,
recurrent, in remission; dysthymic disorder; generalized
anxiety disorder; and panic disorder; hypertension;
arthritis; degenerative joint disease; and chronic fatigue
syndrome (20 CFR 404.1520(c).” T. 13.
• “Through the date last insured, the claimant 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 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).” T. 14.
• “[T]hrough the date last insured, the claimant
had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except th[at] she could have
frequently used both hands for repetitive action such as in
pushing and pulling of arm controls, simple grasping,
reaching (including overhead), and for fine manipulation. She
could have occasionally used either foot for pushing or
pulling leg controls. She could have frequently balanced,
stooped, and crouched; occasionally kneeled, crawled, and
climbed stairs and ramps; and never climbed ladders, ropes or
scaffolds. She could have tolerated occasional exposure to
moving machinery, driving automotive equipment with a clutch,
and marked changes in temperature and humidity. She could
have tolerated no exposure to unprotected heights. She
experienced a moderate degree of pain which occasionally
interfered with concentration, persistence, and pace but did
not require abandonment of the work or workstation. This was
not a continuous concept and occurred intermittently. The
claimant could respond appropriately to supervisors, but
interaction should be casual and nonconfrontational and
feedback should be supportive. The claimant could respond
appropriately to coworkers, but interaction should be casual
and nonconfrontational. The claimant could respond
appropriately to customers or other members of the general
public, but interaction should be casual and
nonconfrontational. The claimant could use judgment in simple
one or two-step work-related decisions. The claimant could
not use judgment in detailed or complex work-related
decisions. The claimant could deal with changes in a routine
work setting, but changes should be infrequent and presented
gradually. The claimant could understand, remember, and carry
out simple one and two-step instructions. The claimant could
not understand, remember, and carry out detailed or complex
instructions. The claimant could maintain attention,
concentration, or pace for periods of at least two hours,
with regular breaks sufficient to perform simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks. The claimant could maintain activities
of daily living. The claimant experienced no episodes of
decompensation that were of extended duration.” T.
• “Through the date last insured, the claimant was
capable of performing past relevant work as a janitor. This
work did not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the claimant's residual
functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565.)” T. 44.
Plaintiff also was capable of performing other work that
exists in significant numbers in the national economy,
including kitchen assistant, produce packer, and laundry
worker. T. 44-46.
• “The claimant was not under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from March 1,
2009, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2013, the
date last insured (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).” T. 46.
federal court reviews the “Commissioner's decision
to determine if it is supported by substantial evidence and
based upon proper legal standards.” Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997); see
also Carnes v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1215, 1218 (11th Cir.
1991) (“[T]his Court may reverse the decision of the
[Commissioner] only when convinced that it is not supported
by substantial evidence or that proper legal standards were
not applied.”). Substantial evidence is
“‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197,
229 (1938)). “Substantial evidence is something
‘more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.'” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Hale v.
Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011 (11th Cir. 1987)). Even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
decision, the decision must be affirmed if supported by
substantial evidence. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d
1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986).
reviewing a Social Security disability case, the court
“‘may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner.]'” Martin v. Sullivan, 894
F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)); see
also Hunter v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 808 F.3d
818, 822 (11th Cir. 2015) (“In determining whether
substantial evidence supports a decision, we give great
deference to the ALJ's factfindings.”) (citing
Black Diamond Coal Min. Co. v. Dir., OWCP, 95 F.3d 1079,
1082 (11th Cir. 1996)). A reviewing court also may not look
“only to those parts of the record which support the
ALJ[, ]” but instead “must view the entire record
and take account of evidence in the record which detracts
from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.” Tieniber
v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253 (11th Cir. 1983). Review
is deferential to a point, but the reviewing court conducts
what has been referred to as “an independent review of
the record.” Flynn v. Heckler, 768 F.2d 1273
(11th Cir. 1985).
Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To
qualify as a disability, the physical or mental impairment
must be so severe that the plaintiff not only is unable to do
her previous work, “but cannot, considering [her] age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy[.]” Id. § 423(d)(2)(A).
to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4),
the Commissioner ...