United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa 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 his application for a
period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Plaintiff alleges he became disabled on
April 1, 2015. (Tr. 30, 46.) A hearing was held before the
assigned Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on June
6, 2016, at which Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.
(Tr. 44-76.) The ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled from April
1, 2015 through July 27, 2016, the date of the
decision. (Tr. 27-39.)
has exhausted his available administrative remedies and the
case is properly before the Court. The undersigned has
reviewed the record, the briefs, and the applicable law. For
the reasons stated herein, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED and REMANDED.
Standard of Review
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).
raises two issues on appeal. First, Plaintiff argues that the
ALJ failed to carefully consider Plaintiff's disability
rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs
(“VA”) and the opinions of the VA compensation
and pension examiners, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Swan, and Dr. Gorman.
Plaintiff's second argument is that the ALJ erred in
concluding that Plaintiff's anxiety and post-traumatic
stress disorder (“PTSD”) were not severe
response to Plaintiff's first argument that the ALJ
failed to carefully consider Plaintiff's VA disability
rating, Defendant states that there is no official record of
a VA rating determination, 70% or otherwise, in the record,
even though at the administrative hearing, Plaintiff's
attorney agreed to obtain a copy for the record. Defendant
asserts that Plaintiff did not satisfy his burden to produce
evidence of a VA rating and the ALJ did not ignore any VA
rating. Further, Defendant argues that the ALJ adequately
considered the opinions of the doctors who worked at the VA
and referred to those opinions by exhibit number. Defendant
states that the ALJ's references either addressed or were
consistent with the opinions of VA Drs. Rozin, Gordon, Pujol,
Garner, Jensen, and Pafford, and the ALJ was not required to
refer to every piece of evidence in her decision. Defendant
contends that the ALJ committed no error, or at most a
harmless error, by not listing all VA doctors by name because
the ALJ expressly considered all medical opinions and
Plaintiff's medical condition as a whole. In response to
Plaintiff's second argument, Defendant argues that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination
that Plaintiff's anxiety and PTSD were not severe
impairments; even if the Court concludes otherwise, any error
at step two of the sequential evaluation process would be, at
most, harmless, because the ALJ identified at least one
severe impairment and proceeded with the functional
The ALJ's Decision
found that Plaintiff has severe impairments, including
obesity, degenerative joint disease in both knees, status
post total left knee replacement, and degenerative disc
disease. (Tr. 32.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
lift and carry up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently; stand/walk for two hours per eight-hour
workday; sit for six hours per eight-hour workday; he can
only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, kneel and crouch;
he can never crawl or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; he
should avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights,
dangerous equipment, extreme heat and cold temperatures,
humidity and vibrations; [and] he can occasionally balance
Plaintiff's disability rating, the ALJ stated:
I have considered the opinions from the VA about the
claimant's limitations and disability rating. (See[, ]
e.g., Exhibits 7F, 9F). Under the regulations, a
determination by another governmental agency that the
claimant is disabled or limited is not binding on the Social
Security Administration, but can be used as evidence of
disability (20 CFR 404.1504 . . . and SSR 06-03p). I note
that other agencies follow different rules and standards in
determining disability and limitations. Therefore, only some
weight is given to the VA's disability rating and
findings about the claimant's limitations.
after finding that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past
relevant work, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform
other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national
economy. (Tr. 37-38.)
The Administrative Hearing
June 6, 2016 administrative hearing, the following exchange
took place between Plaintiff and the ALJ:
Q Now are you, are you getting anything from the VA, any
income from the VA?
A I get $1, 400 a month from the VA.
Q And is -- what is that for?
Q Okay. Of what, on what?
A The service connected disabilities that I currently have
are my right eye, my hypertension, my PTSD and my knees.
Q And that, did I see somewhere that that was less ...