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Young v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

April 26, 2018

LINDA VERNEL YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DANIEL C. IRICK UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Linda Vernel Young (Claimant) appeals to the District Court from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). Doc. 1; R. 1-4, 226-35. Claimant argued that the Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ) erred by failing to properly evaluate Claimant's allegations of pain and limitations. Doc. 16 at 12-16. For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's final decision be AFFIRMED.

         I. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         In July 2014, Claimant filed applications for DIB and SSI. R. 19, 226-35. Claimant alleged a disability onset date of September 25, 2013. Id.

         The ALJ issued his decision on December 30, 2016. R. 19-27. In his decision, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, arthropathies, and dysfunction of major joints. R. 21. The ALJ found that Claimant had a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than a full range of sedentary work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a).[1] R. 22. Specifically, the ALJ found as follows:

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with limitations. The claimant can use her upper extremities to perform tasks no more than frequently.

Id. The ALJ posed a hypothetical question to the vocational expert (VE) that was consistent with the foregoing RFC determination, and the VE testified that Claimant was capable of performing her past relevant work. R. 55-56. The ALJ thus found that Claimant was capable of performing her past relevant work. R. 26. Therefore, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled between the alleged onset date and the date of the ALJ's decision. R. 27

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “In Social Security appeals, [the court] must determine whether the Commissioner's decision is ‘supported by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.'” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). 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., 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) and Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). 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, 67 F.3d at 1560. The district court “‘may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner].'” Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A claimant may establish “disability through his own testimony of pain or other subjective symptoms.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). A claimant seeking to establish disability through his or her own testimony must show:

(1) evidence of an underlying medical condition; and (2) either (a) objective medical evidence confirming the severity of the alleged pain; or (b) that the objectively determined medical condition can reasonably be expected to give rise to the claimed pain.

Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002) (per curiam). If the ALJ determines that the claimant has a medically determinable impairment that could reasonably produce the claimant's alleged pain or other symptoms, the ALJ must then evaluate the extent to which the intensity and persistence of those symptoms limit the claimant's ability to work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(1), 416.929(c)(1). In doing so, the ALJ considers a variety of evidence, including, but not limited to, the claimant's history, the medical signs and laboratory findings, the claimant's statements, medical source opinions, and other evidence of how the pain affects the claimant's daily activities and ability to work. Id. at §§ 404.1529(c)(1)-(3), 416.929(c)(1)-(3). “If the ALJ decides not to credit a claimant's testimony as to her pain, he must articulate explicit and adequate reasons for doing so.” Foote, 67 F.3d at 1561-62. The Court will not disturb a clearly articulated credibility finding that is supported by substantial evidence. See Foote, 67 F.3d at 1562.

         Here, Claimant argued that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Claimant's allegations of pain and limitations. Doc. 16 at 12-16. Specifically, Claimant argued that the ALJ failed to consider that Claimant had unsuccessfully tried multiple forms of treatment; that Claimant's treating physician, Dr. Allende, documented decreased sensation in Claimant's bilateral upper extremities and diagnosed her with cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy; and that Claimant had to stand up during the hearing before the ALJ. Id. Claimant also argued that it was error for ...


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