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Owens v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

February 21, 2018

NORA OWENS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          DANIEL C. IRICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Nora Owens (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her applications 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. 19 at 9-11, 17-18, 19-20, 22-23, 27. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. Id. at 27. The Court finds that the Commissioner's final decision is due to be AFFIRMED for the reasons discussed below.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY.

         This case stems from Claimant's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, in which she alleged a disability onset date of May 1, 2010. R. 177-84. Claimant's applications were denied on initial review, and on reconsideration. The matter then proceeded before an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing on April 14, 2015, at which Claimant and her representative appeared. R. 39-64. The ALJ entered her decision on June 26, 2015, and the Appeals Council denied review on October 20, 2016. R. 1-3, 22-32. This appeal followed.

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION.

         The ALJ found that Claimant suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and irritable bowel syndrome. R. 24. The ALJ also found that Claimant suffered from a non-severe impairment of peptic ulcer disease. R. 24-25. The ALJ, however, determined that none of the foregoing impairments, individually or in combination, met or medically equaled any listed impairment. R. 25-26.

         The ALJ next found that Claimant had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b), [1] with the following specific limitations:

[Claimant has] the ability to lift and carry 20 pounds frequently and 10 pounds occasionally and to sit for 6 hours and stand or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She has unlimited ability to push/pull within the weight limits described. She is able to frequently climb ramps and stairs and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She has unlimited ability to balance, kneel and crouch and she is able to occasionally stoop and crawl. She has no limitations of the upper extremities. She is able to see, hear, and speak. The claimant needs to avoid exposure to extreme cold and hazards.

R. 26. The ALJ, in light of this RFC, found that Claimant was able to perform her past relevant work as a telephone solicitor. R. 31.[2] Thus, the ALJ concluded that Claimant was not disabled between her alleged disability onset date, May 1, 2010, through the date of the decision, June 26, 2015. R. 31-32.

         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 essentially raises three assignments of error: 1) the ALJ erred by finding Claimant's testimony concerning her pain and limitations not entirely credible; 2) the ALJ failed to consider and weigh a written statement from Claimant's supervisor; and 3) the ALJ erred by finding Claimant's past work as a telephone solicitor constituted past relevant work. Doc. 19 at 9-11, 17-18, 19-20, 22-23, 27. The Court will address each assignment of error in turn.

         A. Credibility.

         Claimant argues that the ALJ erred in relying on Claimant's daily activities and sparse treatment in finding that her testimony concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her impairments was not entirely credible. Doc. 19 at 10-11, 17-18. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ articulated specific reasons in support of her credibility determination, and that those reasons and the ALJ's ultimate determination that Claimant's testimony concerning the ...


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