United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. HOFFMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT:
David Mobley (“Claimant”) appeals the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) partially granting his application for
disability benefits. Doc. 1. Claimant raises two arguments
challenging a portion of the Commissioner's final
decision, and, based on those arguments, requests that the
matter be remanded for further administrative proceedings.
Doc. No. 15, at 23-26, 30-33, 36. The Commissioner asserts
that the entire decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“the ALJ”) is supported by substantial evidence
and should be affirmed. Id. at 27-30, 34-36. The
undersigned RESPECTFULLY RECOMMENDS that the
Court REVERSE IN PART and AFFIRM IN PART the
final decision of the Commissioner and
REMAND the case for further proceedings
consistent with the Court's Order on this Report and
8, 2015, Claimant filed an application for disability
insurance benefits. He alleged that he became disabled on
June 11, 2013. R. 79, 200-01. His claim was denied initially
and on reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. 113, 117,
122. A hearing was held before the ALJ on August 15, 2017, at
which Claimant was represented by an attorney. R. 40-67.
Claimant and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified
at the hearing. Id.
the hearing, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision
finding that Claimant became disabled on March 31, 2017, but
that he had not established disability prior to that date. R.
23-32. Claimant sought review of the ALJ's decision by
the Appeals Council. R. 194. On April 16, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied the request for review. R. 1-6. Claimant now
seeks review by this Court of the portion of the
Commissioner's final decision finding that Claimant was
not disabled prior to March 31, 2017. Doc. Nos. 1, 15.
was born in 1962. R. 44. He completed the tenth grade, and
subsequently obtained a license to work in gas. Id.
He previously worked in air conditioning and was a sheet
metal mechanic. Id. Thereafter, he worked in propane
and natural gas. R. 45. In those positions, he sometimes had
to lift over seventy-five pounds. Id.
alleges that he became disabled on June 11, 2013. R. 45.
Since the alleged onset of his disability, he had been
working on small appliances, gas appliances and fireplaces,
and running gas lines. Id. He worked approximately
twenty to thirty hours per month. Id. His wife
accompanied him and assisted with the job. Id.
Claimant testified that he had not done any heavy lifting
since 2013, but he estimated that he could life twenty to
thirty pounds, depending on his body. R. 46. At the time of
the hearing, Claimant was working approximately twenty hours
per month; he worked on equipment such as stoves, fireplaces,
and floor heaters. R. 59.
an accident in 2013, Claimant had herniated discs in his
neck. R. 47. He had surgery in 2015 or 2016 where the
herniated discs were replaced. Id. He still has
radiating pain, although the surgery was successful and
caused him to feel less pain. R. 47, 60. He feels the most
pain in his back and his right leg. R. 60-61.
also has arthritis in his hands, which causes difficulty in
picking up items. R. 48. He has constant lower and middle
back pain due to arthritis, which makes it uncomfortable to
sit for periods of time. Id. He estimated that he
can only walk thirty steps without stopping. R. 49. Claimant
has Osgood-Schlatter disease in his right knee, which causes
him to fall while walking. Id. He had a cane at the
hearing, and he testified that he was prescribed the use of a
cane which he uses at all times. Id. He uses a
single point cane, but he also used a quad cane at one point.
Id. Claimant has joint pain from arthritis in his
hands, knees, ankles, back, and shoulders. R. 50. He also had
blood clots in his lungs, which caused chest pain.
Id. He also has type II diabetes, difficulty
hearing, and asthma. R. 51-52. He experiences several
headaches per week. Id. His pain affects his ability
to sleep. R. 56. Claimant does not expect that his medical
conditions would improve with treatment. R. 63.
hearing, the ALJ posed a hypothetical to the VE concerning a
person with the age, education, and vocational background of
Claimant, who was further:
[l]imited to lifting 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds
frequently, sitting, standing, and walking for up to six
hours in an eight-hour workday. Limited to only occasional
climbing, stooping, kneeling, and crawling. Who must never
climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. Who should avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, to vibration, to
fumes, odors, gas, and poor ventilation, and hazards such as
heights and machinery and loud noises.
The VE testified that such an individual would not be able to
perform Claimant's past work. Id. Yet, other
jobs would meet those requirements, such as the light
exertional level jobs of housekeeping; fast food worker; and
assembler, production. Id. However, upon inquiry by
counsel for Claimant, the VE testified that if the
hypothetical person needed a cane to ambulate, these jobs
would not be available. R. 66. In addition, if the person
were limited to occasional reaching, handling, and fingering
bilaterally, these jobs would not be available. Id.
The ALJ's Decision.
considering the hearing testimony and the evidence in the
record, the ALJ found that Claimant met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30,
2019. R. 25. The ALJ concluded that Claimant had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disabilit y
onset date. Id. The ALJ found that Claimant had the
following severe impairments: dysfunction of joints and spine
disorder. R. 26. These impairments did not meet or equal a
listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
on a review of the record, the ALJ found that Claimant had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work, with the ability to lift and/or carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or
walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour work day; sit for 6 hours in an
8-hour work day; he could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, and climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes and
scaffolds; although he should avoid concentrated exposures to
extreme cold, vibration, fumes, loud noises, as well as
hazards like machinery and heights. Id. In making
this finding, the ALJ concluded that Claimant's
statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of his symptoms were inconsistent with the record
evidence. R. 27. Thus, the ALJ concluded that the record
supported Claimant's severe impairments of dysfunction of
joints and spine disorder, consideration for which was
reflected in the RFC assessment. R. 30. However, the ALJ
found that Claimant's allegations regarding functional
restrictions were disproportionate to the clinical findings;
and the ALJ only accepted Claimant's subjective
complaints insofar as they were supported by objective
evidence and the record as a whole. Id. The ALJ
outlined the objective records on which she relied, which
• June 2013 emergency room records after Claimant was in
a car accident and presented with complaints of neck and head
pain. Claimant had multiple superficial abrasions and areas
of moderate tenderness. Full range of motion in all
extremities was noted; a CT scan of the cervical spine showed
no evidence of acute radiographic abnormality; CT scan of
head was unremarkable; the primary diagnosis was
osteoarthritis. See R. 400, 409.
• July 2013 Access Health Care of Florida records
demonstrating that Claimant had left shoulder and lumbar pain
prior to the accident but reported increased pain after the
accident. Claimant continued treatment until July 2013 with
good results; assessments included cervicalgia, pain in
thoracic spine, and lumbalgia. The records include results of
MRIs of the lumbar and cervical spine from June 2013, the
severity of which were consistent with the findings of the
state agency consultants. See R. 416, 420, 455-57.
• September 2013 Physical Medicine and rehabilitation
specialist records; no aggressive treatment modalities were
recommended due to improvement; Claimant was ambulating
without an assistive device, no limping or spasticity signs
were noted, and muscle strength was 5/5 in the upper limbs.
Examination of the spine and upper limbs showed no focal
redness, ecchymosis or hematoma, ...