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Bright v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 25, 2018

DOLORES ANN BRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          DANIEL C, IRICK UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Dolores Ann Bright (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her application for disability benefits. Doc. 1. Claimant argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ) erred by: 1) failing to comply with Social Security Ruling 12-2p when evaluating whether Claimant's fibromyalgia is a severe impairment; and 2) by not including Claimant's need for an assistive device in the residual functional capacity (RFC) determination and, consequently, in the hypothetical to the vocational expert (VE). Doc. 21 at 15-19, 23-25. Claimant argues that the matter should be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Id. at 27. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ committed no legal error and that her decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. Id. at 19-23, 25-27. The Court finds that Claimant's second assignment of error is meritorious and, thus, finds that the Commissioner's final decision is due be REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural History

         This case stems from Claimant's application for disability insurance benefits (DIB), in which she alleged a disability onset date of May 20, 2011. R. 273-76. Claimant's application was denied on initial review and on reconsideration. The matter then proceeded before an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing, at which Claimant and her representative appeared. R. 38-101. The ALJ entered her decision on August 13, 2015, and the Appeals Council denied review on November 29, 2016. R. 1-3, 13-28. This appeal followed.

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that Claimant's date last insured was March 31, 2014 and that she did not engage in any substantial gainful activity between her alleged onset date, May 20, 2011, through her date last insured, March 31, 2015. R. 15.

         The ALJ found that Claimant suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity; modest arthritis of cervical and lumbar spine without neuropathy; modest arthritis of the knees and hips; status post bilateral hip surgery for onset of avascular necrosis 2013; and history of bilateral cubital tunnel syndrome. R. 15. The ALJ also found that Claimant suffered from the following non-severe impairments: fibromyalgia; depression; and anxiety. R. 16. The ALJ, however, determined that none of the foregoing impairments, individually or in combination, met or medically equaled any listed impairment. R. 17-18.

         The ALJ next found that Claimant had the following residual functional capacity through the date last insured:

[The claimant could] lift and/or carry up to 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally. She could stand and/or walk for a total of 4 hours and sit for 6 hours in an eight-hour day. She could occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She could occasionally climb stairs or ramps, but never ropes and ladders.[1] She can occasionally kneel, crouch, balance and stoop. She cannot crawl or bend more than 90 degrees at the waist. She is able to work at heights occasionally. She can perform continuous reaching at the waist and above shoulder level. She can perform continuous, handling and frequent fingering. She must avoid exposure to moving mechanical parts.

R. 18. In light of this RFC, the ALJ found that Claimant was able to perform her past relevant work as an optometric assistant as well as other work in the national economy. R. 26-28. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Claimant was not disabled between her alleged disability onset date, May 20, 2011, through her date last insured, March 31, 2014. R. 28.

         III. Standard of Review

         The scope of the Court's review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the Commissioner's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). The Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if they are supported by substantial evidence, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which is defined as “more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997). The Court must view the evidence as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the Commissioner's decision, when determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995). The Court may not reweigh evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner, and, even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's decision, the reviewing court must affirm it if the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).

         IV. Analysis

         This case centers on the denial of Claimant's application for DIB. A claimant seeking DIB is eligible for such benefits where she demonstrates disability on or before her date last insured. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, Claimant was required to demonstrate that she was disabled on or before her date last ...


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