United States District Court, M.D. Florida
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
GREGORY J. KELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Yousif (the “Claimant”) appeals to the District
Court a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Doc. No. 1.
Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) committed reversible error by: 1) giving
little weight to the medical opinions of Drs. Todd Gates and
Abdulmassih Abdulmassih for reasons that are not supported by
substantial evidence; and 2) applying improper legal
standards when making a finding on Claimant's
credibility. Doc. No. 19 at 15-20, 31-35. Claimant requests
that the Commissioner's final decision be reversed and
remanded for further proceedings. Id. at 40. For the
reasons stated below, it is ORDERED that the
Commissioner's final decision is
REVERSED and REMANDED for
19, 2013, Claimant filed her SSI application alleging a
disability onset date of July 19, 2013. R. 10, 104. On
November 19, 2013, Claimant's application was denied
initially. R. 10. On February 11, 2014, Claimant's
application was denied upon reconsideration. Id. On
March 5, 2014, Claimant requested a hearing before an ALJ. R.
132. On March 30, 2016, Claimant attended a hearing before
the ALJ. R. 40-89. On June 22, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision finding Claimant not disabled. R. 10-19.
Claimant requested review of the ALJ's decision, but the
Appeals Council denied Claimant's request on May 25,
2017. R. 1-4. On July 17, 2017, Claimant filed this appeal.
Doc. No. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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) (citations omitted). 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.
Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir.
1991). The Court must take 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)
(citations and quotations omitted).
WEIGHING MEDICAL OPINIONS
the opinions and findings of treating, examining, and
non-examining physicians is an integral part in determining
whether a claimant is disabled. In cases involving an
ALJ's handling of medical opinions,
“substantial-evidence review ... involves some
intricacy.” Gaskin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
533 F. App'x. 929, 931 (11th Cir. 2013). In Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176 (11th Cir.
2011), the Eleventh Circuit held that whenever a physician
offers a statement reflecting judgments about the nature and
severity of a claimant's impairments, including symptoms,
diagnosis, and prognosis, what the claimant can still do
despite his or her impairments, and the claimant's
physical and mental restrictions, the statement is an opinion
requiring the ALJ to state with particularity the weight
given to it and the reasons therefor. Id. at 1178-79
(citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(a)(2), 416.927(a)(2);
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.” Winschel,
631 F.3d at 1179 (citations omitted). See also MacGregor
v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053 (11th Cir. 1986) (finding
that a failure to state with particularity the weight given
to medical opinions and the reasons therefor constitutes
good cause, the opinion of a treating physician must be given
substantial weight. Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 703
(11th Cir. 1988). Good cause exists to give a treating
physician's opinion less than substantial weight when the
opinion is not bolstered by the evidence, evidence supports a
contrary finding, or the opinion is conclusory or
inconsistent with the physician's medical records.
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240-41 (11th
Cir. 2004) (citing Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1440 (11th Cir. 1997)).
ALJ must state the grounds for his decision with clarity to
enable [the court] to conduct meaningful review ….
Absent such explanation, it is unclear whether substantial
evidence supported the ALJ's findings; and the decision
does not provide a meaningful basis upon which [the court]
can review [a claimant's] case.” Hanna v.
Astrue, 395 Fed.Appx. 634, 636 (11th Cir. 2010). With
regard to an ALJ's findings regarding a claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), “the
ALJ must link the RFC assessment to specific evidence in the
record bearing upon the claimant's ability to perform the
physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements of
work.” Salter v. Astrue, No. CA 11-00681-C,
2012 WL 3817791, at * 6 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 4, 2012).
“Such linkage, moreover, may not be manufactured
speculatively by the Commissioner … on appeal, but
rather, must be clearly set forth in the ALJ's
decision.” Hunter v. Colvin, No. CA
2:12-00077-C, 2013 WL 1219746, at * 9 (S.D. Ala. Mar. 25,
2013) (citing authority).
November 2015, Claimant was admitted to the Circles of Care
facility in Melbourne, Florida. R. 525. Claimant was
diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, had suicidal
ideations, and had a depressed and anxious
mood. R. 525-26. Claimant denied any
hallucinations and was alert and oriented as to her person
and place, but it was difficult to tell if she was oriented
as to time. R. 525. Claimant did not appear to be responding
to internal stimuli and her speech did not appear to be
sequential. R. 525-26. Claimant was given a Global Assessment
of Functioning Score (“GAF Score”) of 65. R. 526.
Upon discharge, Claimant was pleasant, cooperative, and her
mood was improved. Id. Claimant denied suicidal and
homicidal thoughts, was oriented in all spheres, and had
intact judgment. R. 526-27. There was no evidence of
psychosis and her symptoms from anxiety were improved. R.
December 16, 2015 follow-up appointment, Claimant presented
casually dressed with good hygiene and well-organized
thoughts. R. 529. Claimant also denied suicidal or homicidal
ideations and any hallucinations. Id. Claimant was
found to be sad and tearful at ...