Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Santonil v. Berryhill

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

July 23, 2018

ALICIA SANTOS SANTONIL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations of the Social Security Administration, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          JAMES R. KLINDT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Status

         Alicia Santos Santonil (“Plaintiff”) is appealing the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's (“SSA('s)”) final decision denying her claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). Plaintiff's alleged inability to work is a result of back pain, arm pain, neck pain, Diabetes Type II, and headaches. Transcript of Administrative Proceedings (Doc. No. 10; “ T r . ” or “administrative transcript”), filed September 6, 2017, at 133, 142. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on August 29, 2012, alleging an onset disability date of October 7, 2011. Tr. at 288. Plaintiff's application was denied initially, see Tr. at 141, 133-140, and was denied upon reconsideration, see Tr. at 152, 142-151.

         On September 11, 2014, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing, during which he heard from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”). Tr. at 105-132. The ALJ issued a decision on January 14, 2015, finding Plaintiff not disabled through the date of the decision. Tr. at 156-163. On February 10, 2017, the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review, Tr. at 168-170, vacated the decision, and remanded the case to the ALJ “for resolution of the following issues: the [decision] does not contain an adequate evaluation of the non-examining source opinion [of Charles E. Moore, M.D.] . . . . The decision assigns Dr. Moore's opinion significant weight but does not provide adequate rationale for rejecting the manipulative limitations. Further, consideration of the opinion is necessary pursuant to 20 [C.F.R. §] 404.1527(e), ” Tr. at 169 (citations omitted).

         On October 3, 2016, the same ALJ held a second hearing, during which he heard from Plaintiff, who was again represented by counsel, and a VE. Tr. at 72-102. The ALJ issued a Decision on November 18, 2016, finding Plaintiff not disabled through the date of the Decision. Tr. at 57-64. On May 18, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Tr. at 1-4, thereby making the ALJ's Decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On June 30, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by timely filing a Complaint (Doc. No. 1), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision.

         On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in the following ways: (1) “by not assigning weight to the opinions of . . . treating physician[s] [Paulo Monteiro, M.D., and Herman Downey, M.D., ]” and (2) “[by] not considering the effects of [Plaintiff's] pain.” Memorandum in Support of Complaint (Doc. No. 15; “Pl.'s Mem.”), filed September 15, 2017, at 6 (capitalization and emphasis omitted). On February 1, 2018, Defendant filed a Memorandum in Support of the Commissioner's Decision (Doc. No. 18; “Def.'s Mem.”) addressing Plaintiff's arguments. After a thorough review of the entire record and consideration of the parties' respective memoranda, the undersigned determines that the Commissioner's final decision is due to be affirmed.

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         When determining whether an individual is disabled, [2] an ALJ must follow the five-step sequential inquiry set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations (“Regulations”), determining as appropriate whether the claimant (1) is currently employed or engaging in substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one listed in the Regulations; (4) can perform past relevant work; and (5) retains the ability to perform any work in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant bears the burden of persuasion through step four and, at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).

         Here, the ALJ followed the five-step sequential inquiry. See Tr. at 59-64. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff “engaged in substantial gainful activity through the second quarter of 2012[, but that] there has been a continuous 12-month [period] during which [Plaintiff] did not engage in substantial gainful activity.” Tr. at 59 (emphasis and citations omitted). Thus, the remaining steps “address[ed] the period(s) [Plaintiff] did not engage in substantial gainful activity.” Tr. at 59 (emphasis omitted).

         At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus; diverticulitis; obesity; and degenerative dis[c] disease of the cervical spine, status post [anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery].” Tr. at 59 (emphasis and citation omitted). At step three, the ALJ ascertained that Plaintiff “does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 [C.F.R.] Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” Tr. at 60 (emphasis and citations omitted).

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[Plaintiff can] perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R. §] 404.1567(b) and can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl all on an occasional basis. [Plaintiff] is limited to occasional bilateral overhead reaching, frequent bilateral handling, and frequent bilateral fingering. She cannot tolerate concentrated exposure to vibrations.

Tr. at 60 (emphasis omitted).

         At step four, the ALJ relied on the testimony of the VE and found that Plaintiff is “capable of performing past relevant work as a billing clerk as generally performed per the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.” Tr. at 62 (emphasis and citation omitted). The ALJ then proceeded to make alternative findings regarding the fifth and final step of the sequential inquiry. See Tr. at 63. At step five, after considering Plaintiff's age (“57 years old . . . on the alleged disability onset date”), education (“at least a high school education”), work experience, and RFC, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff has “acquired work skills from past relevant work that are transferable to other occupations with jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy.” Tr. at 63. Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found that “[Plaintiff] could perform the job of a billing clerk.” Tr. at 63 (citation omitted). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff “has not been under a disability . . . from October 7, 2011, through the date of th[e D]decision.” Tr. at 64 (emphasis and citation omitted).

         III. Standard of Review

         This Court reviews the Commissioner's final decision as to disability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Although no deference is given to the ALJ's conclusions of law, findings of fact “are conclusive if . . . supported by ‘substantial evidence' . . . .” Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing Falge v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir. 1998)). “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)). The substantial evidence standard is met when there is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Falge, 150 F.3d at 1322 (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). It is not for this Court to reweigh the evidence; rather, the entire record is reviewed to determine whether “the decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.” Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation and citations omitted); see also McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988); Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987). The decision reached by the Commissioner must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence-even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's findings. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th Cir. 2004) (per curiam).

         IV. Discussion

         As noted, Plaintiff takes issue with the ALJ's failure to give weight to the opinions of Dr. Monteiro and Dr. Downey, as well as his alleged failure to take into account the effects of Plaintiff's pain. The relevant medical evidence ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.