United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
B. SMITH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“Act”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3), to obtain judicial review of a final
decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”)
denying his claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income under the Act. Upon review, I
respectfully recommend that the Commissioner's final
decision in this case be AFFIRMED, pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
April 1, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income, alleging disability commencing on March 15, 2014, due
to “back and emotional conditions, ” anxiety,
panic disorder, depression and arthritis (Tr. 214-225, 258).
His claims were denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr.
126-133, 140-151), and he requested and received a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (Tr.
35-63, 152-153, 166). On December 12, 2016, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled and issued his unfavorable decision
requested Appeals Council review of the hearing decision (Tr.
14-15), contending that his file was “missing both
crucial mental health and physical medical records”
(Tr. 15). He provided the names of two physicians and a
hospital that had medical records that were not submitted to
the ALJ. Id. The Appeals Council requested that
Plaintiff obtain and provide the missing records (Tr. 7) and
Plaintiff submitted additional medical records and statements
(Tr. 4-6, 319-325, 560-617). On March 24, 2017, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-6),
making the ALJ's December 12, 2016 decision the final
decision of the Commissioner.
brings this action after exhausting his available
administrative remedies. This dispute has been fully briefed,
and was referred to me for a report and recommendation.
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ must
follow the five-step sequential evaluation process appearing
at 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4).
Specifically, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant:
(1) is currently employed; (2) has a severe impairment; (3)
has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals an impairment listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) can perform past relevant work;
and (5) retains the ability to perform any work in the
national economy. See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d
1232, 1237-1240 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant bears the
burden of persuasion through step four and, at step five, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that other jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987);
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241 n.10.
case the ALJ performed the required sequential analysis. At
step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date
(Tr. 21). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
suffered from the severe impairments of disorders of the
cervical and lumbar spine s/p surgery; anxiety-related
disorder; affective mood disorder; osteoarthritis; and
history of angina (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c) (Tr.
21). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff 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 (Tr.
21-22). Next, the ALJ decided that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except he needs to avoid ladders or unprotected heights; he
needs to avoid the operation of heavy moving machinery; he
needs simple tasks with low stress and no production line; he
needs to avoid contact with the public; he is limited to
occasional bending, crouching, kneeling and stooping; he
needs to avoid squatting and crawling; and he needs to be
allowed to use a mono-cane for ambulation.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work (Tr. 27). Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded at step five that
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that he can
perform (Tr. 28-29). As a result, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not under a disability from March 15, 2014,
through the date of the decision (Tr. 29).
scope of the Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363
F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). Findings of fact are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant
evidence that a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Winschel v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011)
(citation omitted). When 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 preponderance of the evidence is against the
Commissioner's decision. Miles v. Chater, 84
F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996). The district court
“may not decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute our judgment for that of the
[Commissioner.]” Id. "The district court
must view the record as a whole, taking into ...