United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. HOFFMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Bailey (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her application for
disability benefits. (Doc. 1). The Claimant raises several
arguments challenging the Commissioner's final decision
and, based on those arguments, requests that the matter be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings. (Doc. 15 at
8-11, 15-16, 18). The Commissioner argues that the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) committed no legal error and
that her decision is supported by substantial evidence and
should be affirmed. (Id. at 11-14, 16-18). Upon
review of the record, the undersigned respectfully RECOMMENDS
that the Commissioner's final decision be
REVERSED and REMANDED for
case stems from the Claimant's application for
supplemental security income. (R. 232-37). The Claimant
initially alleged a disability onset date of July 1, 2012 (R.
232), but later amended that date to July 30, 2014 (R. 38).
The Claimant's application was denied on initial review
and on reconsideration. The matter then proceeded before an
ALJ. On August 30, 2017, the ALJ entered a decision denying
the Claimant's application for disability benefits. (R.
10-24). The Claimant requested review of the ALJ's
decision, but the Appeals Council denied her request for
review. (R. 1-3). This appeal followed.
The ALJ's Decision
found that the Claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments: disorders of the spine; fibromyalgia;
arthralgias; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma;
disorders of the thyroid; obesity; affective disorder;
anxiety disorder; and tobacco disorder. (R. 12). The ALJ,
however, determined that none of the foregoing impairments,
individually or in combination, met or medically equaled any
listed impairment. (R. 13-16).
found that the Claimant has the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
416.967 with the following specific limitations:
[N]o climbing or overhead reaching; no exposure to
concentrated hot or humid environments, concentrated fumes,
gases, poorly ventilated areas and/or hazards; and, she is
limited to simple, routine tasks with no independent goal
(R. 16). In light of this RFC, the ALJ found that the
Claimant was unable to perform her past relevant work. (R.
22). However, the ALJ further determined that the Claimant
could perform other work in the national economy, including
cashier II, ticket seller, and marker. (R. 23-24). Thus, the
ALJ concluded that the Claimant was not disabled between her
alleged onset date, July 30, 2014, through the date of the
ALJ's decision, August 30, 2017. (R. 24).
Standard of Re view
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. Winschelv. Comm'r
o/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, 61 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).
Claimant raises the following assignments of error: 1) the
ALJ failed to account for all the limitations in Dr. Alvan
Barber's opinion; and 2) the ALJ erred by not weighing
Dr. Theodore Weber's opinion. (Doc. 15 at 8-11, 15-16).
The undersigned will address each assignment of error in
is tasked with assessing a claimant's RFC and ability to
perform past relevant work. Phillips v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004). The RFC "is an
assessment, based upon all of the relevant evidence, of a
claimant's remaining ability to do work despite his
impairments." Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440. In
determining a claimant's RFC, the ALJ must consider all
relevant evidence, including, but not limited to, the medical
opinions of treating, examining and non-examining medical
sources. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3);
see also Rosario v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec,
490 Fed.Appx. 192, 194 (11th Cir. 2012).
and non-examining physicians' opinions are generally not
entitled to any special deference. McSwain v. Bowen,
814 F.2d 617, 619 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Gibson v.
Heckler, 779 F.2d 619, 623 (11th Cir. 1986));
Broughton v. Heckler, 776 F.2d 960, 962 (11th Cir.
1985) (citing Spencer v. Heckler, 165 F.2d 1090,
1094 (11th Cir. 1985)). Nevertheless, the ALJ must state the
weight assigned to each medical opinion, and articulate the
reasons supporting the weight assigned to each opinion.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179. The failure to state the
weight with particularity or articulate the reasons in
support of the weight prohibits the Court from determining
whether the ultimate decision is rational and supported by
substantial evidence. Id.
Barber opined, in relevant part, that the Claimant
"cannot walk for long periods of time." (Doc. 15 at
9). The ALJ assigned Dr. Barber's opinion "great
weight" and limited the Claimant to light work with
several additional limitations, none of which related to the
Claimant's ability to walk. (R. 16). The Claimant
contends that Dr. Barber's opinion concerning the
Claimant's ability to walk conflicts with the ALJ's
determination that the Claimant can perform light work. (Doc.
15 at 10-11). Thus, the Claimant argues that the ALJ failed
to include or account for Dr. Barber's opinion concerning
the Claimant's ability to walk in the RFC determination.
Commissioner contends that Dr. Barber's opinion
concerning the Claimant's ability to walk is consistent
with the performance of light work. (Id. at 12).
Thus, the Commissioner argues that Dr. Barber's opinion
is "fully incorporated" into the RFC determination.
(Id. at 11). The Commissioner also contends that if
the walking limitation is inconsistent with light work any
resulting error would be harmless. (Id. at 11-12).
Specifically, the Commissioner points to the ALJ's
question to the vocational expert (VE) about whether the
Claimant could still perform the marker and cashier jobs if
she was required to change positions between sitting and
standing every hour. (Id. ...