United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
Kayle M. Flinchbaugh, Plaintiff,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION
Patricia D. Barksdale United States Magistrate Judge.
a case under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) to review a final
decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
denying Kayla Flinchbaugh's claim for supplemental security
income. Flinchbaugh seeks reversal and remand
based on the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ's”) treatment of opinions of Dr. Philip
Yates and Richard Grissinger. Doc. 14. Concluding the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and substantial evidence
supports the decision, I recommend affirmance.
was born in 1989 and last worked in April 2010. Tr. 212, 271.
She has worked briefly as a fast-food cook and
housekeeper. Tr. 41-42, 271. She lives with her
boyfriend and two young children. Tr. 43, 46. She alleges she
became disabled in June 2013 from organic brain syndrome,
cervical cancer, and a suppressed immune system. Tr. 38, 271.
She proceeded through the administrative process, failing at
each level. Tr. 1-6, 16-28, 59-80, 83-89, 96-102. This case
followed. Doc. 1.
entered a decision on March 3, 2015. Tr. 28.
one,  the ALJ found Flinchbaugh has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since July 2012 (the
application date). Tr. 18.
two, the ALJ found Flinchbaugh suffers from severe
impairments of asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease,
status post-gastrointestinal surgery, borderline intellectual
functioning, dysthymic disorder, and anxiety-related
disorder. Tr. 18.
three, the ALJ found Flinchbaugh has no impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of any listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 19. He considered the
“paragraph B” criteria to determine if her mental
impairments meet or equal the criteria of a listing. Tr.
19-21. He found she has a mild restriction in activities of
daily living; moderate difficulties in social functioning;
and moderate difficulties maintaining concentration,
persistence, and pace; and has had no episode of
decompensation of extended duration. Tr. 20-21. He also
considered the “paragraph C” criteria and
found she does not meet them. Tr. 22.
stating he had considered the entire record and summarizing
the medical evidence, the ALJ found Flinchbaugh has the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
“less than the full range of light work”:
The claimant can lift, carry, push, and/or pull twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently. She can stand and
walk for approximately six hours and can sit for up to six
hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. She can
stoop, crouch, and crawl occasionally but should never climb
ladders or scaffolds. She must avoid exposure to vibration,
unprotected heights, and hazardous machinery. Her work is
limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. The
claimant should have no interaction with the general public
and only occasional interaction with coworkers.Tr. 22-26.
steps four and five, the ALJ found Flinchbaugh has no past
relevant work but can perform jobs the vocational expert
identified (assembly machine tender, bottling line attendant,
and packing line worker), and those jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Tr. 27-28. He therefore
found no disability. Tr. 28.
court's review of an ALJ's decision is limited to
determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards and whether substantial evidence supports his
findings. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is “less than a
preponderance”; it is “such relevant evidence as
a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. A court may not decide facts
anew, reweigh evidence, make credibility determinations, or
substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's judgment.
Id. A court must affirm the ALJ's decision if
substantial evidence supports it, even if the evidence
preponderates against the factual findings. Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990).
of its source, the Social Security Administration “will
evaluate every medical opinion” it receives. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.927(c). “Medical opinions are statements
from acceptable medical sources that reflect judgments about
the nature and severity of … impairment(s), including
… symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what [one] can
still do despite impairment(s), and … physical or
mental restrictions.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(a).
Opinions on issues that are dispositive of a case, such as
whether a claimant is disabled or able to work, are not
medical opinions because they are opinions on issues reserved
to the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d)(1).
“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). “In the absence of such a
statement, it is impossible for a reviewing court to
determine whether the ultimate decision on the merits of a
claim is rational and supported by substantial
evidence.” Id. “Unless [an ALJ] has
analyzed all evidence and has sufficiently explained the
weight he has given to obviously probative exhibits, to say
that his decision is supported by substantial evidence
approaches an abdication of the court's duty to
scrutinize the record as a whole to determine whether the
conclusions reached are rational.” Cowart v.
Schweiker, 662 F.2d 731, 735 (11th Cir. 1981) (internal
quotation marks omitted). If an ALJ does not “state
with at least some measure of clarity the grounds for his
decision, ” a court will not affirm simply because some
rationale might have supported it. Winschel, 631
F.3d at 1179.
the Social Security Administration gives a treating
source's opinion controlling weight, it will consider
several factors to decide the weight to give a medical
opinion: examining relationship, treatment relationship,
supportability, consistency, specialization, and any other
relevant factor. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c).
acceptable medical source is a licensed physician (a medical
or osteopathic doctor), licensed or certified psychologist,
licensed optometrist, licensed podiatrist, or qualified
speech-language pathologist. 20 C.F.R. § 416.913(a). An
ALJ may also consider evidence from sources not listed as
acceptable medical sources. 20 C.F.R. § 416.913(d). That
evidence may show the severity of an impairment and how it
affects a claimant's ability to work but cannot establish
the existence of a medically determinable impairment or
constitute a “medical opinion.” Social Security
Ruling (“SSR”) 06-03p, 2006 WL 2263437 (Aug. 9,
2006). Opinions from other sources “are
important and should be evaluated on key issues such as
impairment severity and functional effects, along with the
other relevant evidence in the file.” Id. The
record “should reflect the consideration of
opinions” from other sources, and the ALJ should
explain the weight given to them “or otherwise ensure
that the discussion of the evidence … allows a
claimant or subsequent reviewer to follow [his] reasoning,
when such opinions may have an effect on the outcome of the
case.” Id. The factors relevant in evaluating
medical opinions “can be applied to opinion evidence
from ‘other sources.'” Id.
claimant's RFC is the most she can still do despite her
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1). The Social
Security Administration uses the RFC at step four to decide
if she can perform any past relevant work and, if not, at
step five with other factors to decide if there are other
jobs in significant numbers in the national economy she can
perform. 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(5).
limitations found when assessing the “paragraph
B” criteria are not an RFC assessment. SSR 96-8p, 1996
WL 374184, at *4 (July 2, 1996). The mental RFC assessment
“requires a more detailed assessment by itemizing
various functions.” Id.
mental demands of unskilled jobs include “the abilities
(on a sustained basis) to understand, carry out, and remember
simple instructions; to respond appropriately to supervision,
coworkers, and usual work situations; and to deal with
changes in a routine work setting.” SSR 85-15, 1985 WL
56857, at *4-5 (January 1, 1985). If an ALJ finds a claimant
has moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or
pace, he must implicitly or explicitly account for any
related limitation in his hypothetical question to the
vocational expert or find the claimant's ability to work
is unaffected by the difficulties. Winschel v.
Comm'r, 631 F.3d 1176, 1181 (11th Cir. 2011).
Failure to do so renders the hypothetical question to the
vocational expert incomplete and precludes reliance on the
expert's testimony as substantial evidence supporting
finding the claimant able to work. Id.
“[R]estricting the claimant to simple and routine tasks
adequately accounts for restrictions related to
concentration, persistence, and pace where ...