United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
GILDA E. RIVERO, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MIRANDO, United States Magistrate Judge
Gilda E. Rivero seeks judicial review of the denial of her
claims for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) by the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”). The
Court has reviewed the record, the briefs and the applicable
law. For the reasons discussed herein, the decision of the
Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Issue on Appeal
raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly found Plaintiff's
mental impairments do not meet listings; (2) whether the ALJ
properly assessed Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”); and (3) whether substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's findings at step five.
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
filed her applications for DIB on May 10, 2012 and SSI on May
18, 2012, alleging her disability began November 12,
due to her generalized anxiety disorder, hypoglycemia, panic
attacks, constant worry, depression, constant crying and lack
of concentration. Tr. 84, 95, 216-31. On April 13, 2015, the
ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from
November 12, 2011 through the date of the decision. Tr.
13-29. At step two of the sequential process,  the ALJ found
Plaintiff had several impairments. Tr. 15. At step three, the
ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that met or medically equaled a listing. Tr.
16. Prior to step four, the ALJ then determined Plaintiff had
the RFC to perform a range of medium work with limitations:
[Plaintiff] can lift, carry, push, and pull 50 pounds
occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. [Plaintiff] can sit,
stand and walk each 6 hours of 8hour workday.
[Plaintiff's] work is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks, with “simple” defined as
unskilled tasks. [Plaintiff] is limited to work with no
interaction with the public and is limited to work that
allows the individual to be off task five percent of the
workday in addition to regularly scheduled breaks.
Tr. 20. Next, at step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work. Tr. 26. Relying on
the testimony of the vocational expert (“VE”),
the ALJ determined there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform.
Tr. 27-28. As a result, she found Plaintiff was not disabled.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence.
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
390 (1971)). 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., evidence that must do more than
create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be
established, and 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) (internal citations omitted).
Eleventh Circuit has restated that “[i]n determining
whether substantial evidence supports a decision, we give
great deference to the ALJ's fact findings.”
Hunter v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 808 F.3d
818, 822 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). 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 or found that the preponderance of the evidence is
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); see also Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835,
837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating that the court must scrutinize
the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the
factual findings). The Court reviews the Commissioner's
conclusions of law under a de novo standard of
review. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin.,
496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
Whether the ALJ properly found Plaintiff's mental
impairments not meet listings
found Plaintiff's major depressive disorder, depressive
order not otherwise specified (“NOS”), bipolar
disorder, mood disorder NOS, generalized anxiety disorder,
panic disorders with or without acrophobia, alcohol
dependence and poly-substance abuse disorder are severe
impairments. Tr. 15. Next, the ALJ considered whether
Plaintiff's mental impairments meet any listings and
decided they do not. Tr. 17-19. In support, the ALJ
considered four broad functional areas known as the
“paragraph B” criteria. Tr. 19. The ALJ determined
Plaintiff has mild limitations in activities of daily living
and moderate limitations in social functioning and
concentration, persistence or pace, and has experienced no
episodes of decompensation of an extended duration.
Id. Thus, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff's mental
impairments do not satisfy the paragraph B criteria and:
The mental [RFC] assessment . . . requires a more detailed
assessment by itemizing various functions contained in the
broad categories found in paragraph B of the adult mental
disorders listings in 12.00 of the Listing of Impairments
(SSR 96-8p). Therefore, the following [RFC] assessment
reflects the degree of limitation [the ALJ] found in the
“paragraph B” mental function analysis.
assessing Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ further considered
various assessments of Plaintiff's mental RFC, including
those of the state agency's psychologists, Michelle
Butler, Psy.D and James L. Meyers, Psy.D. Tr. 25-26, 99-103,
114-18. The ALJ discussed:
The state agency's psychological assessors, Michelle
Butler, Psy.D and James L. Meyers, Psy.D., after reviewing
[Plaintiff's] record, concluded that [Plaintiff] has mild
restrictions in activities of daily living, mild difficulties
in maintaining social functioning, moderate difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence or pace, and no
episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration. They
also opined [Plaintiff] can understand, retain, and carry out
simple instructions. [Plaintiff] can consistently and
usefully perform routine tasks on a sustained basis, with
minimal (normal) supervision, and can cooperate effectively
with public and coworkers in completing simple tasks and
transactions. [Plaintiff] can adjust to the mental demands of
most new task settings (Exhibits 1A, 2A, 5A, 6A). Partial
weight is given to these opinions as they are only partially
supported by the evidence and they did not have the benefit
of reviewing all of the evidence which establishes that
[Plaintiff] is more limited than originally opined.
on the assessments of Drs. Butler and Meyers, Plaintiff
argues the ALJ should have found that she has marked
limitations in concentration, persistence and pace and social
functioning. Doc. 23 at 16-18. Plaintiff asserts these
findings would have led to the ALJ's determination that
her anxiety disorder meets Listing 12.06. Id. The
Commissioner responds the assessments of Drs. Butler and
Meyers do not support Plaintiff's arguments, and
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's evaluation of
Plaintiff's mental impairments. Doc. 27 at 22-26.
claimant's mental impairment satisfies Listing 12.06 if
the requirements in both paragraphs A and B or in both
paragraphs A and C are satisfied. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1, § 12.06. Paragraph A contains the types of
symptoms a claimant must show. Id., § ...