United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. RICK UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Rios (Claimant) appeals to the District Court from a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
Commissioner) denying his applications for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income
(SSI). Doc. 1; R. 1-3, 229-36. Claimant argued that the
Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ) erred by failing to apply
the correct legal standards to the opinion of Martin Prado,
M.D. Doc. 14 at 12-16. For the reasons set forth below, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's
final decision be AFFIRMED.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
filed applications for DIB and SSI in 2013. R. 229-36.
Claimant alleged a disability onset date of March 31, 2011.
issued her decision on January 20, 2016. R. 13-27. In the
decision, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following
severe impairment: colitis. R. 15. The ALJ found that
Claimant had a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
less than a full range of light work as defined by 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). R. 18.
Specifically, the ALJ found as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except except [sic] he is able to lift up to 10 pounds
continuously, up to 20 pounds frequently and up to 50 pounds
occasionally; he is able to sit for 8 hours, stand for 6
hours and walk for 6 hours; he is able to continuously use
his bilateral hands and frequently is able to write; he is
never to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; he is able to
frequently use stairs/ramps, balance, stoop, kneel and crouch
but is only able to occasionally crawl; he has no problems
with his ability to see, hear or communicate; he should avoid
unprotected heights, dusts, odors, fumes and pulmonary
irritants, extreme cold and extreme heat; he can have
occasional access to vibrations, humidity or wetness; he is
able to operate a motor vehicle frequently and be around
moving, mechanical parts frequently and he can handle
moderate office noise. In addition to the normal 3 breaks
(morning, lunch and afternoon), he would need 2 additional
breaks of 5 minutes duration during a work day.
Id. Based upon the foregoing RFC, the ALJ found that
Claimant was capable of performing his past relevant work. R.
26. Therefore, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled
from March 31, 2011 through the date of the ALJ's
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 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 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)).
four of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ assesses
the claimant's RFC and ability to perform past relevant
work. Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1238. “The
residual functional capacity is an assessment, based upon all
of the relevant evidence, of a claimant's remaining
ability to do work despite his impairments.” Lewis
v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997). The
ALJ is responsible for determining the claimant's RFC. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1546(c); 416.946(c). In doing so, the
ALJ must consider all relevant evidence, including, but not
limited to, the medical opinions of treating, examining, and
non-examining medical sources. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1545(a)(1), (3); 416.945(a)(1), (3); see also Rosario
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 877 F.Supp.2d 1254, 1265
(M.D. Fla. 2012).
weighing of treating, examining, and non-examining
physicians' opinions is an integral part of steps four
and five of the sequential evaluation process. In
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176
(11th Cir. 2011), the Eleventh Circuit stated that:
“‘Medical opinions are statements from physicians
and psychologists or other acceptable medical sources that
reflect judgments about the nature and severity of [the
claimant's] impairment(s), including [the claimant's]
symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what [the claimant] can
still do despite impairment(s), and [the claimant's]
physical or mental restrictions.'” Id. at
1178-79 (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(a)(2))
(alterations in original). “[T]he ALJ must state with
particularity the weight given to different medical opinions
and the reasons therefor.” Id. at 1179 (citing
Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279 (11th Cir.
1987)). “In the absence of such a statement, it is
impossible for a reviewing court to determine whether the
ultimate decision on the merits of the claim is rational and
supported by substantial evidence.” Id.
(quoting Cowart v. Schwieker, 662 F.2d 731, 735
(11th Cir. 1981)).
must consider a number of factors in determining how much
weight to give each medical opinion, including: 1) whether
the physician has examined the claimant; 2) the length,
nature, and extent of the physician's relationship with
the claimant; 3) the medical evidence and explanation
supporting the physician's opinion; 4) how consistent the
physician's opinion is with the record as a whole; and 5)
the physician's specialization. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c); 416.927(c). A treating physician's opinion
must be given substantial or considerable weight, unless good
cause is shown to the contrary. Winschel, 631 F.3d
at 1179; see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c)(2); 416.927(c)(2) (giving controlling weight to
the treating physician's opinion unless it is
inconsistent with other substantial evidence). “Good
cause exists when the: (1) treating physician's opinion
was not ...