United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHARLES J. KAHN, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Northern District of
Florida Local Rules 72.1(A), 72.2(D), and 72.3, relating to
review of administrative determinations under the Social
Security Act (“Act”). The case is now before the
court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of a
final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying claimant's
applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-34, and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-83. Upon review of the record before the
court, the undersigned concludes the findings of fact and
determinations of the Commissioner are not supported by
substantial evidence and the Commissioner's decision,
therefore, should be reversed and the matter remanded for
further proceedings consistent with this Report and
Smith, who will be referred to as claimant, plaintiff, or by
name, raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
assigning an “internally inconsistent” residual
functional capacity; and (2) whether the ALJ's decision
is based on substantial evidence given the ALJ's alleged
erroneous reliance on the vocational expert's
Smith filed applications for DIB and SSI on March 25, 2014,
alleging disability beginning February 15,
2014. T. 135-36. His claims were denied initially
and on reconsideration. T. 135, 163. Mr. Smith appeared for a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on October 18, 2016. T. 48. On December
7, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying Mr. Smith's
claims for benefits. T. 4-32. Mr. Smith petitioned the
Appeals Council for review of the ALJ's decision. T. 41.
The Appeals Council denied the request. T. 167. The ALJ's
decision thus became the final determination of the
OF THE ALJ
written decision, the ALJ made a number of findings relevant
to the issues raised in this appeal:
• “The claimant has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since March 25, 2014, the application date
(20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).” T. 6.
• “The claimant has the following severe
impairments: chondromalacia of the patella and degenerative
joint disease of the right knee, posttraumatic deformity of
the distal tibia, gout, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes
mellitus, status post cerebrovascular accident, posttraumatic
stress disorder by history, and a mood disorder by history
(20 CFR 416.920(c)).” T. 7.
• “The claimant does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and
416.926).” T. 8.
• “[T]he claimant has the residual functional
capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
416.967(a) except the claimant can continuously use both
hands for grasping and fine manipulation; can only
occasionally use his left arm to push, pull, or operate hand
controls; can never use his right arm to push, pull, or
operate hand controls; can only occasionally use his left leg
to push, pull, or operate foot controls; can never use his
right leg to push, pull, or operate foot controls; can only
frequently stoop; can never kneel, crouch, or crawl; can
never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; can only
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; can never balance on his
right leg but can occasionally balance on his left leg; can
never reach overhead with his right arm; can only frequently
reach overhead with his left arm; must avoid all exposure to
extreme temperatures and workplace hazards such as
unprotected heights and moving machinery; and can never
operate a motor vehicle which requires the operation of a
clutch. The claimant can experience pain which occasionally
interferes with concentration, persistence, and pace but does
not require the claimant to abandon his work or workstation.
This is not a continuous concept and occurs up to 20% of the
time. The claimant can only frequently respond appropriately
to supervisors; can only occasionally respond appropriately
to coworkers and the general public; can constantly use his
judgment for simple work-related decisions, but only
occasionally use his judgment for complex or detailed
work-related decisions; can respond appropriately to
infrequent and gradual changes in a routine work setting; can
constantly understand, remember, and carry out simple
instructions, but only occasionally understand, remember, and
carry out complex or detailed instructions; and can maintain
concentration, persistence, and pace for two hours at a time
with regular breaks; can maintain activities of daily living;
and experiences no episodes of decompensation each of
extended duration.” T. 10.
• “The claimant is unable to perform any past
relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).” T. 25.
• “Considering the claimant's age, education,
work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and
416.969(a)).” T. 26.
• “The claimant has not been under a disability,
as defined in the Social Security Act, since March 25, 2014,
the date the application was filed
(20 CFR 416.920(g)).” T. 27.
federal court reviews the “Commissioner's decision
to determine if it is supported by substantial evidence and
based upon proper legal standards.” Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997); see
also Carnes v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1215, 1218 (11th Cir.
1991) (“[T]his Court may reverse the decision of the
[Commissioner] only when convinced that it is not supported
by substantial evidence or that proper legal standards were
not applied.”). Substantial evidence is
“‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197,
229 (1938)). “Substantial evidence is something
‘more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.'” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Hale v.
Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011 (11th Cir. 1987)). Even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
decision, the decision must be affirmed if supported by
substantial evidence. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d
1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986).
reviewing a Social Security disability case, the court
“‘may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner.]'” Martin v. Sullivan, 894
F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)); see
also Hunter v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 808 F.3d
818, 822 (11th Cir. 2015) (“In determining whether
substantial evidence supports a decision, we give great
deference to the ALJ's factfindings.”) (citing
Black Diamond Coal Min. Co. v. Dir., OWCP, 95 F.3d 1079,
1082 (11th Cir. 1996)). A reviewing court also may not look
“only to those parts of the record which support the
ALJ[, ]” but instead “must view the entire record
and take account of evidence in the record which detracts
from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.” Tieniber
v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253 (11th Cir. 1983). Review
is deferential to a point, but the reviewing court conducts
what has been referred to as “an independent review of
the record.” Flynn v. Heckler, 768 F.2d 1273
(11th Cir. 1985).
Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To
qualify as a disability, the physical or mental impairment
must be so severe that the plaintiff not only is unable to do
his previous work, “but cannot, considering [his] age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy[.]” Id. § 423(d)(2)(A).
to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4),
the Commissioner ...