United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
SABRINA L. COOPER, Plaintiff,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal
of an administrative decision denying her application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). Plaintiff originally claimed that she
became disabled on October 1, 2011, but amended her onset
date to May 7, 2012. (Tr. 17, 51, 102-03.) The administrative
law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on September 19,
2013 (Tr. 100-59), and subsequently issued a decision on
February 28, 2014, finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr.
January 21, 2015, the Appeals Council (“AC”)
entered an order remanding the case back to the ALJ to
conduct further proceedings. (Tr. 190-92.) Specifically, the
AC found that the ALJ failed to identify or discuss the
medical opinions rendered by Cathy Whitley, M.D., an
examining physician. (Tr.190.) The AC noted that an ALJ
cannot ignore medical opinions and noted that Dr.
Whitley's opinions, if accepted, may preclude the
performance of Plaintiff's past relevant work.
(Id.) Moreover, the AC found that the ALJ erred in
failing to evaluate Plaintiff's obesity in the decision.
(Tr. 191.) Upon remand, the AC directed the ALJ to, inter
alia, “[e]valuate [Plaintiff's] obesity and
its effects in combination with [Plaintiff's] other
physical impairments, pursuant to Social Security Ruling
02-01p, ” and to “evaluate the consultative
opinion by Dr. Whitley, pursuant to the provisions of 20 CFR
404.1527 and Social Security Rulings 96-2p and 96-5p, and
explain the weight given to such opinion evidence.”
(Id.) The AC reminded the ALJ that he could
“request that Dr. Whitley provide additional evidence
and/or further clarification of the opinion.”
(Id. (internal citation omitted).)
did not request any further information from Dr. Whitley on
remand. Instead, the ALJ obtained a written report dated
March 9, 2015 from consultative physician Timothy McCormick,
DO, MPJH. (Tr. 1421-27.) The ALJ also conducted a second
hearing on June 18, 2015. (Tr. 39-97.) The ALJ rendered a
second decision on July 14, 2015, finding Plaintiff not
disabled from May 7, 2012, the alleged onset date, through
the date of the decision.
is appealing the Commissioner's decision that she was not
disabled from May 7, 2012 through July 14, 2015. Plaintiff
has exhausted her available administrative remedies and the
case is properly before the Court. The Court has reviewed the
record, the briefs, and the applicable law. For the reasons
stated herein, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
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).
argues two general points on appeal. First, Plaintiff argues
that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the record medical
evidence. More specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ
failed to properly consider Plaintiff's cardiovascular
impairments, failed to properly evaluate the opinions of Drs.
Whitley and McCormick, and failed to properly describe
Plaintiff's status in the hypothetical presented to the
vocational expert (“VE”). Second, Plaintiff
contends that the ALJ failed to properly consider her
credibility. Plaintiff specifically asserts that the ALJ
erred in discounting her testimony regarding cardiovascular
impairments, depression and anxiety, back impairments, and
obesity. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's
evaluation at step four of the decision is clearly
articulated and supported by substantial evidence.
The ALJ's Decision
found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
“obesity; congenital heart disease; history of
mechanical mitral valve replacement (MVR); hypertension;
history of transient ischemic attack (TIA); history of
chronic back pain; and history of asthma.” (Tr. 20
(internal citation omitted).) The ALJ then found that
Plaintiff did not have any impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 21.) At step four, the ALJ found, in relevant
part, that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with
limitations. [Plaintiff] can lift/carry up to 10 pounds
frequently, 20 pounds occasionally; she can sit for two hours
at a time, stand for 30 minutes at a time, and walk for 30
minutes at a time; she can sit for five hours total in an
eight-hour workday and stand or walk for two hours total in
an eight-hour workday; the [Plaintiff] can frequently use her
bilateral upper extremities for reaching (overhead and in all
directions), handling, fingering, feeling, and
pushing/pulling; she is limited to no more than occasional
postural activities (i.e., climbing, balancing, stooping,
squatting, crouching, crawling, or kneeling); she must avoid
unprotected heights; no more than frequent exposure to moving
mechanical parts, operation of a motor vehicle, humidity,
wetness, pulmonary irritants, extreme temperatures, and
vibrations; and she is limited to moderate (office) noise
(Tr. 22.) In making this RFC determination, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff's “medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms; however, the [Plaintiff's] statements
concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of th[e] symptoms are not entirely credible for the reasons
explained in th[e] decision.” (Tr. 27.) The ALJ then
determined that Plaintiff was able to perform her past
relevant work as a companion sitter, customer service clerk,
cashier, and telemarketer. (Tr. 30.) As such, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period.