United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
B. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of Defendant, the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying his claims for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the
Act. Upon review, I respectfully recommend that the
Commissioner's final decision in this case be
AFFIRMED, pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
January 10, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed for benefits,
alleging an onset date of June 7, 2010 (Tr. 216-237), later
amended to December 31, 2012 (Tr. 23, 52). He claimed he was
disabled due to severe sleep apnea, back injury, depression,
morbid obesity, stomach disorder, sinus (chronic), diabetes,
high blood pressure, weakness in the hands and legs, and
short term memory impairment (Tr. 266). Plaintiff's
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr.
136-142, 148-158). Then, he requested and received a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (Tr.
160, 49-70). On June 16, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not
disabled (Tr. 17-48). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-8), making the
ALJ's June 2016 decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff brings this action after exhausting
his available administrative remedies. This dispute has been
fully briefed, and was referred to me for a report and
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ must
follow the five-step sequential evaluation process published
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4).
Specifically, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant:
(1) is currently employed; (2) has a severe impairment; (3)
has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals an impairment listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) can perform past relevant work;
and (5) retains the ability to perform any work in the
national economy. See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d
1232, 1237-1240 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant bears the
burden of persuasion through step four and, at step five, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that other jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987);
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241 n.10.
one in this case the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged amended onset
date (Tr. 25). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
suffered from the severe impairments of: degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, obstructive sleep
apnea, diabetes mellitus, major depressive disorder, bipolar
disorder, and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))
(Tr. 25). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr.
the ALJ decided that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform
less than the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). Specifically, the claimant
has the residual functional capacity to lift, carry, push,
and/or pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds
frequently. He can sit for 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday.
He can stand and walk for 2 hours out of an 8-hour workday.
He can occasionally perform climbing of ramps and stairs, but
never climbing of ladders, ropes and scaffolds. He can
occasionally perform stooping, kneeling, crouching and
crawling. He is limited to occasional exposure to dust,
odors, fumes and pulmonary irritants. He is limited to
occasional exposure to extreme heat and vibration and no
exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving
machinery. Mentally, the claimant is able to understand,
remember and carryout instructions which are limited to
perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks. He is limited
to simple work-related decisions, and occasional interaction
with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work (Tr. 40). Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ concluded at
step five that, considering Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that he can
perform (Tr. 40). As a result, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not under a disability at any time from December 31,
2012, through the date of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 41).
scope of the Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363
F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). Findings of fact are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant
evidence that a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Winschel v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011)
(citation omitted). When 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 preponderance of the evidence is against the
Commissioner's decision. Miles v. Chater, 84
F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996). The district court
“may not decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute our judgment for that of the
[Commissioner.]” Id., quoting Bloodsworth
v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
"The district court must view the record as a whole,
taking into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable
to the decision." Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d
1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); accord
Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992)
(the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the factual findings).
of Medical Opinion Evidence
contends that the ALJ erred in formulating his RFC by failing
to adequately consider and weigh all of the limitations and
opinions outlined by treating physician Dr. Jorge Guerrero.
Specifically, Plaintiff refers to Dr. Guerrero's findings
that he “weighed over 300 pounds with severe daily
hypersomnolence, headaches in the morning, extreme fatigue
during the day, inability to concentrate, memory loss, severe
snoring with choking episodes in the middle of the night
consistent with severe obstructive sleep apnea clinically
needing a split night sleep study to confirm obstructive and
possibly central sleep apnea” (Tr. 397), and his
observation that Plaintiff was “extremely
hypersomnolent even falling asleep during” their
conversation (Tr. 719). Plaintiff ...