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Carmella-Green v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Gainesville Division

March 27, 2018

STACY LEIGH CARMELLA-GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          GARY R. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff appeals to this Court from a final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) pursuant to Title II and Title XVI, respectively, of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), prior to June 1, 2012. (ECF No. 1.) The Commissioner has answered, (ECF No. 11), and both parties have filed briefs outlining their respective positions. (ECF Nos. 25 & 26.) For the reasons discussed below, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed applications for Title II DIB and Title XVI benefits on September 19, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of October 1, 2006. (R. 92-93, 180-88.) Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 92-95.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who issued a written decision on March 28, 2013, finding that Plaintiff was disabled from March 12, 2010, through June 1, 2011, but not disabled after June 1, 2011. (R. 20-34.) The Appeals Council (“AC”) thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1-3, 15.)

         Plaintiff then appealed to this Court. (R. 1701-06.) Upon consent motion by the Commissioner, this Court reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the case to the Commissioner pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), so that the ALJ could,

reevaluate Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments and their severity at steps two and three of the sequential evaluation process, and clearly articulate the mental and physical limitations assessed in the residual functional capacity finding with specific references to the evidence of record that supports the assessed limitations pursuant to Social Security Ruling 96-8p; and (2) reevaluate and, if warranted, obtain supplemental vocational expert evidence at steps four and five of the sequential evaluation process to clarify the effect that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity would have on her occupational bases.

(Id.)

         On remand, the AC reviewed the ALJ's March 28, 2013 decision and issued an order remanding the case to the ALJ, stating:

As the Court reversed and remanded the hearing decision issued by the Administrative Law Judge, and the Appeals Council does not affirm the favorable portion of the decision, this remand order covers the entire period at issue from the alleged onset date of October 1, 2006 through the date of the new hearing decision.

         (R. 1709-12.) The AC then set forth several issues for the ALJ to resolve on remand, including the reasons this Court reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the case, as well as various other issues the AC identified. (Id.)

         On April 13, 2016, following a hearing, the same ALJ issued a new decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to June 1, 2012, but became disabled on that date. (R. 1599-1615.) The AC then denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1586-89.) Plaintiff subsequently appealed to this Court. (ECF No. 1.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2012). 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), Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); accord Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991).

         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, 937 F.2d at 584 n.3; 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, 67 F.3d at 1560; accord Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (holding that the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine reasonableness of factual findings); Parker v. Bowen,793 F.2d 1177 (11th Cir. 1986) (finding that the court must also consider evidence detracting from evidence on which the Commissioner relied). However, the district court will reverse the Commissioner's decision on plenary review if the ...


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