United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
C. IRICK UNITES STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ann Dawson (Claimant) appeals to the District Court from a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
Commissioner) denying her application for disability
insurance benefits. Doc. 1; R. 1-3, 157-160. Claimant argued
that the Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ) erred by failing
to apply the proper legal standards in determining whether
Claimant had a medically determinable impairment prior to her
date last insured. Doc. 13 at 10-13. For the reasons set
forth below, the Commissioner's final decision is
THE ALJ'S DECISION
December 2014, Claimant filed an application for disability
insurance benefits. R. 13, 157-60. Claimant alleged a
disability onset date of December 1, 2013. Id.
issued her decision on November 14, 2016. R. 13-17. In her
decision, the ALJ found that Claimant's date last insured
was December 31, 2013. R. 15. The ALJ then found that
Claimant did not have any medically determinable impairments
through the date last insured. R. 15-17. The ALJ therefore
found that Claimant was not disabled between the alleged
onset date and the date last insured. R. 17.
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 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)).
two of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable
impairment or combination of impairments that is
“severe.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
(c). “An impairment is not severe only if the
abnormality is so slight and its effect so minimal that it
would clearly not be expected to interfere with the
individual's ability to work, irrespective of age,
education or work experience.” McDaniel v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1031 (11th Cir. 1986) (stating
that step two is a threshold inquiry that “allows only
claims based on the most trivial impairments to be
rejected”); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1521(a) (“An impairment or combination of
impairments is not severe if it does not significantly limit
your physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.”). Although the claimant bears the
burden of proof in establishing that the claimant suffers
from a severe impairment or combination of impairments,
“claimant's burden at step two is mild.”
McDaniel, 800 F.2d at 1031; see Gibbs v.
Barnhart, 156 Fed.Appx. 243, 246 (11th Cir. 2005)
(stating that the claimant must prove that he or she suffers
from a severe impairment or combination of
impairments). If at step two the ALJ finds that a
claimant has even one severe impairment, then the ALJ must
proceed to the next sequential steps.
initial matter, the Court finds that Claimant's single,
brief argument attacking the ALJ's decision in this case
is not clear on its face and makes judicial review
particularly difficult in this case. That said, it appears
that Claimant argues that the ALJ erred by not correctly
applying Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-20 to the facts of
her case. Doc. 13 at 10-13. In support, Claimant argues that
pursuant to SSR 83-20 the ALJ may infer that a claimant's
disability began prior to the date of the claimant's
first recorded medical examination based upon evidence
obtained from family members and the opinion of a
“medical advisor” but that the ALJ failed to
consider evidence other than the medical findings.
Id. In response, the Commissioner argues that SSR
83-20 is not applicable to the facts of this case. Doc. 13 at
assuming that SSR 83-20 is applicable to this case - and the
Court does not make the finding that it is - the ALJ complied
with SSR 83-20 and, thus, Claimant's argument is without
merit. The ALJ sought the opinion of a “medical
advisor” - Scott Belliston, D.O. - when determining
whether Claimant suffered from disabling symptoms in December
2013. Doc. 627, 633. And it is apparent from the ALJ's
decision that the ALJ considered all of the evidence,
including the testimony of Claimant's
husband. See Doc. 15-17, 28. Accordingly,
the Court finds that Claimant's allegation that the
ALJ's failed to comply with SSR 83-20 by failing to
consider evidence other than the medical findings is without
merit. To the extent that Claimant was attempting to raise
some other issue in relation to SSR 83-20, Claimant waived
the argument by raising it in a perfunctory manner. See,
e.g., Jacobus v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
15-14609, 2016 WL 6080607, at *3 n.2 (11th Cir. Oct. 18,
2016) (stating that claimant's perfunctory argument was
arguably abandoned); Gombash v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 566 Fed. App'x. 857, 858 n.1 (11th Cir. 2014)
(stating that the issue was not properly presented on appeal
where claimant provided no supporting argument); NLRB v.
McClain of Ga., Inc., 138 F.3d 1418, 1422 (11th Cir.
1998) (“Issues raised in a perfunctory manner, without
supporting arguments and citation to authorities, are
generally deemed to be waived.”); Gaskey v.
Colvin, No. 4:12-CV-3833-AKK, 2014 WL 4809410, at *7
(N.D. Ala. Sept. 26, 2014) (refusing to consider
claimant's argument when claimant failed to explain how
the evidence undermined the ALJ's decision) (citing
Singh v. U.S. Atty. Gen, 561 F.3d 1275, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2009) (“[A]n appellant's simply stating that
an issue exists, without further argument or discussion,
constitutes abandonment of that issue and precludes our
considering the issue on appeal.”)).
extent Claimant's argument could be interpreted as an
argument that the ALJ failed to properly weigh Dr.
Belliston's opinion that Claimant began experiencing
disabling limitations in November 2013, Claimant's
argument is also without merit. First, Dr. Belliston was not
a treating physician and, as such, his opinion was not
entitled to any special deference. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(c). Second, contrary to Claimant's
incorrect assertion that the “only reason the ALJ gave
for rejecting [Claimant's] testimony was that she was not
treated for PLS until after her date last insured, ”
the ALJ provided an adequate explanation for rejecting Dr.
Belliston's opinion. Specifically, the ALJ stated as
The undersigned assigned the opinion that the disabling
limitations began in November 2013 little weight because it
is inconsistent with the evidence of record. The evidence
shows that on January 20, 2014, the claimant appeared at
Progressive Wellness Center for regular medication refills
(Exhibit 21F/7). The notes state that she is doing well on
meds and had not lost weight. There were no significant
symptoms listed and the assessment was menopause. These and
other records shortly after the date last insured support a
finding that she was not yet experiencing disabling symptoms
in December 2013.
R. 16. The reason offered by the ALJ for assigning little
weight to Dr. Belliston's opinion - that Claimant's
medical records from early 2014 support a finding that
Claimant was not experiencing disabling symptoms in December
2013 - is supported ...