United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
GREGORY J. KELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Dees (the “Claimant”) appeals to the District
Court a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Doc. No. 1.
Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) committed reversible error by: 1) making
findings regarding Claimant's credibility that were not
supported by substantial evidence; and 2) applying improper
legal standards to a Residual Functional Capacity
Questionnaire (the “RFC Questionnaire”) from Dr.
James Byrne, Claimant's treating physician. Doc. No. 15
at 13-17, 24-26. Claimant requests that the Court reverse the
Commissioner's final decision and remand the case for
further proceedings. Id. at 29. For the reasons set
forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that the
Court REVERSE the Commissioner's final
decision and REMAND the case for further
28, 2013, Claimant filed her SSI application alleging a
disability onset date of January 30, 2009. R. 223. Claimant
later amended her disability onset date to August 14, 2013.
R. 384. On August 21, 2013, Claimant's application was
denied initially. R. 141-43. On November 13, 2013,
Claimant's application was denied upon reconsideration.
R. 148-152. On December 6, 2013, Claimant requested a hearing
before the ALJ. R. 154. On March 7, 2016, Claimant attended a
hearing before the ALJ. R. 62-113. On April 15, 2016, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision finding Claimant not disabled.
R. 34-49. On June 15, 2016, Claimant requested review of the
ALJ's decision. R. 8. On April 11, 2017, the Appeals
Council denied Claimant's request. R. 1-6. On June 9,
2017, Claimant filed this appeal. Doc. No. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Social Security regulations delineate a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th
Cir. 1999) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520). 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., the
evidence must do more than merely create a suspicion of the
existence of a fact, and must include 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) (citing Walden v. Schweiker, 672
F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982) and Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). 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.
Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir.
1991). The Court must take into account evidence favorable as
well as unfavorable to the decision. Foote, 67 F.3d
at 1560. The District Court “may not decide the facts
anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for
that of the [Commissioner].” Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)
(citations and quotations omitted).
two, the ALJ found that Claimant had severe impairments of:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine;
generalized arthritis; fibromyalgia; myasthenia gravis; and a
history of migraine headaches. R. 36. At step four, the ALJ
found Claimant's statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms not
credible. R. 40. The ALJ made three separate
credibility findings. First, the ALJ found that Claimant
“has described daily activities, which are not entirely
limited.” R. 46. Specifically, the ALJ stated:
At one point or another in the record, [Claimant] has
reported the following activities: occasionally
taking/picking her daughter up from school and/or functions,
cooking simple meals, taking care of personal needs, doing
laundry and light household chores when her pain allowed,
driving [one to two] times a week, using a computer/phone,
being able to manage finances, and shopping while leaning
onto a cart.
Id. (citing R. 234-38, 257-261, 450). Second, the
ALJ found that Claimant's “treatment has been
essentially conservative in nature and somewhat effective in
controlling her pain.” Id. Finally, the ALJ
found that “physical examinations do not document any
objective findings that would prevent [Claimant] from
performing work activity within the established residual
functional capacity (“RFC”).” Id.
The ALJ then cites evidence in support of this credibility
finding, noting: 1) an August 2013 examination revealing
normal gait without an assistive device, no sensory loss,
normal muscle strength, and full range of motion; 2) a
September 2013 examination revealing no tenderness or
swelling and full range of motion; 3) two examinations from
July 2015 showing normal motor strength in the upper
extremities and normal gait; and 4) examinations from
February 2015 and October 2015 noting 5/5 bilateral motor
strength in the upper and lower extremities and normal gait.
Id. (citing R. 446, 484-495, 725, 839, 850).
argues that the ALJ erred in making the above-referenced
credibility findings. First, Claimant argues that none of her
activities of daily living conflict with her testimony
regarding her limitations. Doc. No. 15 at 25. Second,
Claimant argues that the ALJ's second credibility finding
overlooks records from the Laser Spine Institute noting that
Claimant “had attempted numerous forms of conservative
care for her neck and low back pain with no persisting
relief.” Id. at 25-26. Claimant also notes
that she was scheduled to have multiple surgeries with the
Laser Spine Institute which were later cancelled through no
fault of her own. Id. Third, Claimant argues that
the ALJ's third credibility finding failed to provide
specific or adequate reasons for finding her statements not
credible. Id. at 26. Finally, Claimant argues that
the ALJ's third credibility finding “overlooked all
of the evidence that supported [her] testimony.”
Activities of Daily Living
making his first finding regarding Claimant's
credibility, the ALJ found that Claimant's reported daily
activities were not limited. R. 46. Specifically, the ALJ
noted that Claimant occasionally picks her daughter up from
school and other functions, cooks simple meals, takes care of
her personal needs, does laundry and light household chores
when her pain allows, drives once or twice per week, uses a
computer and phone, manages her finances, and shops while
leaning onto a cart. Id.
Court has found reversible error when an ALJ detracts from a
Claimant's credibility based on daily living activities
that have no relationship with a claimant's alleged
impairments, especially if such activities are of a short
duration, limited, and not vigorous. See Lafond v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 6:14-cv-1001-Orl-DAB, 2015
WL 4076943, at *10 (M.D. Fla. July 2, 2015) (finding that the
ALJ erred by considering evidence that the claimant drove
short distances, washed dishes, prepared meals, shopped for
groceries, and did her own laundry in assessing credibility);
Wolfe v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
6:11-cv-1316-ORL-DAB, 2012 WL 3264916, at *6 (M.D. Fla. Aug.
10, 2012) (finding that the ALJ erred by considering evidence
that the claimant went grocery shopping, prepared meals, and
performed household chores in assessing credibility). See
also Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1441 (11th Cir.