United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. SIMONTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on the
cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Sailyn
De La Torre ("Plaintiff") and by Defendant, Nancy
A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security
Administration ("Defendant"), ECF Nos.  and
. The Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment was also styled as an opposition to the
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. .
The Plaintiff has filed a combined Reply to her Motion for
Summary Judgment and an Opposition to the Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. . Pursuant to the
consent of the Parties, the Honorable Kathleen M. Williams,
United States District Judge, has referred this matter to the
undersigned to take all necessary and proper action as
required by law, through and including trial by jury and
entry of final judgment, ECF Nos.  .
reasons stated below, the undersigned DENIES the
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and GRANTS the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
1, 2015, Plaintiff was found disabled as of September 1,
2002, and eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). (R. 33, 104-111). On December 8,
2014, during Plaintiff's redetermination proceeding,
Plaintiff was found to be no longer disabled as of December
1, 2014. (R. 104-111). Plaintiff subsequently requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) which took place on March 8, 2016. (R.
hearing, Plaintiff was represented by an attorney; and,
Plaintiff and an impartial vocational expert
(“VE”) testified. On April 18, 2016, the ALJ
issued a decision finding, among other things, that Plaintiff
was not disabled under the Act because medical improvement
occurred as of December 1, 2014, and the Plaintiff retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform jobs that existed in the national economy from
December 1, 2014. (R. 27-49). Plaintiff then requested that
the Social Security Administration's (“SSA”)
Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, which was
denied on August 8, 2016. (R. 1-8). Thus, the ALJ's
decision stands as the final decision of Defendant and is
ripe for review. 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a).
exhausted all administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed
the pending Complaint seeking judicial review of the
administrative proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), ECF No. . Plaintiff requests this Court to reverse
the Defendant's denial of benefits or remand this case to
the Commissioner for further proceedings. Defendant filed an
Answer to the Complaint, ECF No. .
Motions for Summary Judgment
Parties have filed their respective Motions for Summary
Judgment. Generally, the Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's
determination that the Plaintiff, who was twenty-eight at the
time of the ALJ's decision, is no longer disabled due to
her bipolar disorder, ECF No.  at 3. The Plaintiff
challenges the ALJ's determination that the opinions of
the Plaintiff's treating psychologist, Dr. Marcos E.
Cintron, M.D., were only entitled to little weight, and
argues that the ALJ failed to give sufficient reasons to
support that determination. The Plaintiff further challenges
the ALJ's determination that the Plaintiff was not
credible in regards to her testimony about her symptoms
related to her bipolar disorder. The Plaintiff also contends
that the ALJ failed to take into account the episodic nature
of the Plaintiff's mental disorder from the longitudinal
perspective, and thus failed to properly consider that
condition when determining the Plaintiff's residual
functioning capacity (“RFC”). Finally, the
Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to demonstrate that
Plaintiff's current symptoms related to her mental
disorder had improved from those in 2005, when she was
initially determined to be disabled, and therefore her
benefits should have been terminated.
Defendant contends that the ALJ properly determined that Dr.
Cintron's opinions were only entitled to little weight
since they were not supported by the objective medical
evidence, including Dr. Cintron's own treating notes
which documented the Plaintiff's unremarkable mental
status, ECF No.  at 13, 14. Defendant further contends
that the ALJ correctly found that the medical record
demonstrates that the Plaintiff basically was stable and only
showed significant abnormalities in July of 2015, when she
did not take her medication, ECF No.  at 14. The
Defendant argues that the Plaintiff's function reports
demonstrate that her daily activities were inconsistent with
Dr. Cintron's conclusions regarding the Plaintiff's
ability to function. Finally, the Defendant asserts that the
ALJ properly evaluated the Plaintiff's claims regarding
her symptoms, and properly determined her residual functional
capacity based upon the medical evidence, and the
the fully briefed cross-motions for summary judgment present
the following two issues to be determined by the undersigned:
1) whether the ALJ erred in according little weight to the
opinion of the Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, which
resulted in a mental functioning capacity finding that was
not based on substantial evidence; and,
2) whether the ALJ's credibility finding regarding the
Plaintiff was supported by substantial evidence, ECF Nos.
 at 1.
following reasons and under the limited standard of review
that governs this case, the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports Administrative Law Judge
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the ALJ's decision in disability cases is
limited to determining whether the record contains
substantial evidence to support the ALJ's factual
findings and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, (1971); Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004); Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th
Cir. 1990). “Substantial evidence” is more than a
scintilla, but less than preponderance and is generally
defined as such relevant evidence which a reasonable mind
would accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Lewis
v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997);
Bloodworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
reviewing the evidence, the Court may not reweigh evidence or
substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ, and even if the
evidence “preponderates” against the
Commissioner's decision, the reviewing court must affirm
if the decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir.
1991); Baker v. Sullivan, 880 F.2d 319, 321 (11th
Cir. 1989). This restrictive standard of review, however,
applies only to findings of fact. No presumption of validity
attaches to the Commissioner's conclusions of law, which
are reviewed de novo, including the determination of the
proper standard to be applied in reviewing claims.
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th
Cir. 1991) (“The Commissioner's failure to apply
the correct law or to provide the reviewing court with
sufficient reasoning for determining that the proper legal
analysis has been conducted mandates reversal.”);
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d at 1529.
FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYSIS
person who applies for social security disability benefits
must prove her disability before being entitled to those
benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512. However, after disability is
determined, the Commissioner must periodically review whether
an individual is entitled to continued benefits and whether
there has been medical improvement such that the individual
can engage in substantial gainful ...