United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
ANTHONY E. PORCELLI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks judicial review of the denial of her claim for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). As the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision
was based on substantial evidence and employed proper legal
standards, it is recommended that the Commissioner's
decision be affirmed.
filed an application for SSI (Tr. 154). The Commissioner
denied Plaintiff's claims both initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 61-78). Plaintiff then requested an
administrative hearing (Tr. 91). Per Plaintiff's request,
the ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared and
testified (Tr. 30-47). Following the hearing, the ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and
accordingly denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits (Tr.
10-21). Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the
Appeals Council, which the Appeals Council denied (Tr. 1).
Plaintiff then timely filed a complaint with this Court (Doc.
1). The case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision
who was born in 1997, claimed disability beginning May 20,
2016 (Tr. 19, 12). Plaintiff obtained a seventh-grade
education (Tr. 35). Plaintiff has no past relevant work
experience (Tr. 19). Plaintiff alleged disability due to
panic attacks, paranoid reasons for limitation, and cannot
work (Tr. 198).
rendering the administrative decision, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 20, 2016, the alleged onset date (Tr. 12). After
conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of record,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: morbid obesity, lumbar thoracolumbar
levoscoliosis, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, panic
disorder with agoraphobia, posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), cannabis use disorder, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, impulse control disorder, and
headaches (Tr. 12). Notwithstanding the noted impairments,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (Tr. 13). The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff
retained a residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform less than the full range of light work; can
occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can perform
simple, routine, and repetitive work with occasional contact
with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public (Tr. 15).
In formulating Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ considered
Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined that,
although the evidence established the presence of underlying
impairments that reasonably could be expected to produce the
symptoms alleged, Plaintiff's statements as to the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms
were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence (Tr. 19).
Plaintiff's background and RFC, the VE testified that
Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant
numbers in the national economy, such as a cleaner
(housekeeping), advertising material distributor, and blade
balancer (Tr. 20). Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 21).
entitled to benefits, a claimant must be disabled, meaning he
or she must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A “physical or mental
impairment” is an impairment that results from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities,
which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C. §§
Social Security Administration, in order to regularize the
adjudicative process, promulgated the detailed regulations
currently in effect. These regulations establish a
“sequential evaluation process” to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920. If an individual is found disabled at any
point in the sequential review, further inquiry is
unnecessary. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a).
Under this process, the ALJ must determine, in sequence, the
following: whether the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity; whether the claimant has a
severe impairment, i.e., one that significantly
limits the ability to perform work-related functions; whether
the severe impairment meets or equals the medical criteria of
20 C.F.R. Part 404 Subpart P, Appendix 1; and whether the
claimant can perform his or her past relevant work. If the
claimant cannot perform the tasks required of his or her
prior work, step five of the evaluation requires the ALJ to
decide if the claimant can do other work in the national
economy in view of his or her age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). A
claimant is entitled to benefits only if unable to perform
other work. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42
(1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).
ALJ, in part, decides Plaintiff's claim pursuant to
Regulations designed to incorporate vocational factors into
the consideration of disability claims. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1501, et seq. These
Regulations apply in cases where an individual's medical
condition is severe enough to prevent him from returning to
his former employment but may not be severe enough to prevent
him from engaging in other substantial gainful activity. In
such cases, the Regulations direct that an individual's
residual functional capacity, age, education, and work
experience be considered in determining whether the claimant
is disabled. These factors are codified in tables of rules
that are appended to the Regulations and are commonly
referred to as “the grids.” 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, App. 2. If an individual's situation coincides
with the criteria listed in a rule, that rule directs a
conclusion as to whether the individual is disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 416.969. If an individual's
situation varies from the criteria listed in a rule, the rule
is not conclusive as to an individual's disability but is
advisory only. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569a, 416.969a.
determination by the Commissioner that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if it is supported by substantial
evidence and comports with applicable legal standards.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB,
305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938) (internal quotation marks omitted));
Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir.
1996). While the court reviews the Commissioner's
decision with deference to the factual findings, no such
deference is given to the legal conclusions. Keeton v.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064,
1066 (11th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted).
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the court may not
re-weigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment for that
of the ALJ even if it finds that the evidence preponderates
against the ALJ's decision. Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). The
Commissioner's failure to apply the correct law, or to
give the reviewing court sufficient reasoning for determining
that he or she has conducted the proper legal analysis,
mandates reversal. Keeton, 21 F.3d at 1066. The
scope of review is thus limited to determining whether the
findings of the Commissioner are supported by substantial
evidence and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002).
argues that the ALJ erred by (1) improperly evaluating the
opinions of the state agency physicians, Dr. Maurice Rudmann
and Dr. Michelle Butler; (2) improperly evaluating the
Licensed Mental Health Counselor's (“LMHC”)
opinion, Dr. Sandra Treston; and (3) finding that there are a
significant number of jobs available in the national economy
that the Plaintiff could perform. For the reasons that