United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MARY L. NOTTINGHAM Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MIRANDO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Mary L. Nottingham seeks judicial review of the denial of her
claim for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) by the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”).
The Court has reviewed the record, the briefs and the
applicable law. For the reasons discussed herein, the
decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED,
and this matter is REMANDED pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), sentence four.
Issues on Appeal
raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) findings of the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the ALJ developed a full and
fair record; (2) whether the ALJ properly assessed
Plaintiff's severe impairments; and (3) whether
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's assessment of
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
was 64 years old at the time of the hearing before ALJ
Stephen Calvarese on November 5, 2015. Tr. 60, 64. Plaintiff
alleged disability due to pain in her back, leg and neck and
severe depression. Tr. 209. On November 24, 2015, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from April
5, 2013, the alleged disability onset date, through the date
of the decision. Tr. 19-29. In his decision, at step two of
the sequential process,  the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumber
spine and obesity and non-severe impairments of hypertension,
mild chronic kidney disease, an affective disorder and an
anxiety-related disorder. Tr. 21. In doing so, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had mild limitations in activities of daily
living, social functioning and concentration, persistence or
pace, and no episodes of decompensation. Tr. 22-23. At step
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled a listing. Tr. 23. Prior to step four, the
ALJ then determined that during the relevant period Plaintiff
had the RFC to perform light work with additional physical
restrictions. Tr. 24. Next, at step four the ALJ found that
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a
supervisory cashier as generally performed. Tr. 27-28. As a
result, he found Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr.28-29.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence.
McRoberts v. Bowen, 91077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988)
(citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971)). 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., evidence that must do more than
create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be
established, and 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) (internal citations omitted).
Eleventh Circuit has restated that “[i]n determining
whether substantial evidence supports a decision, we give
great deference to the ALJ's fact findings.”
Hunter v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 808 F.3d
818, 822 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). 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 or found that the preponderance of the evidence is
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); see also Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835,
837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating that the court must scrutinize
the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the
factual findings). The Court reviews the Commissioner's
conclusions of law under a de novo standard of
review. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin.,
496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
Plaintiff's RFC and the ALJ's development of the
argues the ALJ failed to adequately consider all
“pertinent medical evidence” when considering
Plaintiff's RFC and to properly consider and weigh the
medical opinions of record, specifically records from
Plaintiff's treating physician, Morphan Sharma, M.D., and
nerve conduction studies ordered by Plaintiff's
neurologist, Jeffrey S. Corak, M.D. Doc. 23 at 8-18.
Plaintiff asserts the ALJ had an affirmative duty to obtain
these records and erred by failing to do so. Id. The
Commissioner responds Plaintiff has not shown a violation of
her due process rights or demonstrated clear prejudice. Doc.
24 at 5-9. Based on the admittedly scant evidence available
to the ALJ and because the additional evidence, if
considered, may have changed the ALJ's decision, the
Court finds that remand is required.
Crisanto, M.D., was Plaintiff's primary care physician
who treated her at Deltona Medical Center from 2008 through
March 2013 for her medical conditions, including her
depression. Tr. 213, 333-375. Plaintiff testified she sought
treatment from Dr. Sharma for her anxiety and other general
medical issues following her treatment with Dr. Crisanto
because of insurance coverage issues. Tr. 76-81; see
Tr. 247, 397-415 (records of colonoscopy and other tests
ordered by Dr. Sharma in from July to November 2014), 430-32
(record of neurologic consultation referred by Dr. Sharma in
October 2015). At the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel
informed the ALJ that he anticipated getting “some
updates” from Dr. Sharma “imminently, ” and
while he expected them in time for the hearing, he did not
anticipate it would take “more than a few days”
to receive them. Tr. 63. The ALJ responded:
Okay. What I normally do is I don't leave the record open
for any specific length of time. But I will promise you that
if I receive the documents before I decide the ...