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Owens v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

February 8, 2018

STEVEN ALLEN OWENS, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          DANIEL C. IRICK, UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Steven Allen Owens, Sr. (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his application for disability benefits. Doc. 1. Claimant raises a number of arguments challenging the Commissioner's final decision, and, based on those arguments, requests that the matter be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Doc. 14 at 15-17, 21-26, 30-32, 35. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. Id. at 35. The Court finds that the Commissioner's final decision is due to be REVERSED and REMANDED for the reasons discussed below.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY.

         Claimant filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits in June 2010, alleging that he became disabled on May 29, 2009. R. 59. An ALJ entered a decision denying that application in October 2011, and the Appeals Council denied review in October 2012. R. 59-67, 71-73. Claimant did not appeal this denial to federal court.

         Claimant filed the operative application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) in December 2012, again alleging that he became disabled on May 29, 2009. R.178-82. Claimant subsequently amended his alleged onset date to October 20, 2011. R. 217. Claimant's application was denied on initial review, and on reconsideration. The matter then proceeded before an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing on February 11, 2015, at which Claimant and his representative appeared. R. 34-55. The ALJ entered her decision on March 25, 2015, and the Appeals Council denied review on August 10, 2016. R. 1-4, 24-31. This appeal followed.

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION.

         The ALJ found that Claimant suffered from the following severe impairments through his date last insured: disorders of the spine; and obesity. R. 26. The ALJ also found that Claimant suffered from the following non-severe impairments through his date last insured: bowel issues; and fibromyalgia. R. 26-27. The ALJ, however, determined that none of the foregoing impairments, individually or in combination, met or medically equaled any listed impairment. R. 27.

         The ALJ found that Claimant had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)[1] through the date last insured, with the following specific limitations:

[N]o more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling. The claimant could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and needs to avoid even moderate exposure to hazards, machinery, and heights.

R. 27. The ALJ, in light of this RFC, found that Claimant was able to perform his past relevant work as a retail store manager. R. 30-31.[2] Thus, the ALJ concluded that Claimant was not disabled between the alleged onset date, October 20, 2011, and his date last insured, March 31, 2014. R. 31.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW.

         The scope of the Court's review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards, and whether the Commissioner's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). The Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if they are supported by substantial evidence, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which is defined as “more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997). The Court must view the evidence as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the Commissioner's decision, when determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995). The Court may not reweigh evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner, and, even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's decision, the reviewing court must affirm it if the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).

         IV. ANALYSIS.

         Claimant raises three assignments of error: 1) the ALJ failed to consider Claimant's diagnoses of myofascial pain syndrome and complex regional pain syndrome; 2) the ALJ failed to include or account for limitations caused by Claimant's diarrhea and constipation; and 3) the ALJ erred by assigning little weight to the opinion of Claimant's treating physician, Dr. Theodore Brooks. Doc. 14 at 15-17, 21-26, 30-32. The Court ...


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