United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
ARNOLD SANSONE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Fivecoat seeks judicial review of a decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her
claim for disability insurance benefits under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g). After reviewing the
record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), administrative record,
pleadings, and joint memorandum the parties submitted, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's
decision be AFFIRMED.
Fivecoat applied for disability benefits because of a
disability she claims began on September 28, 2013. (Tr.
190-91). Disability examiners denied her application
initially and after reconsideration. (Tr. 101, 111). Ms.
Fivecoat then requested and received a hearing before an ALJ,
who found Ms. Fivecoat not disabled. (Tr. 12-27).
Appeals Council denied Ms. Fivecoat's request for review
of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1- 6). Ms. Fivecoat
seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision. (Doc. 1).
NATURE OF DISABILITY CLAIM
Fivecoat was fifty-one years old when she submitted her
application for disability benefits. (Tr. 190-91). Ms.
Fivecoat has a high school education and past relevant work
experience as a general manager. (Tr. 22).
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
must follow five steps when evaluating a claim for
disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). First, if a
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity,
is not disabled. § 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant
has no impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limit her physical or mental ability to perform
basic work activities, then she has no severe impairment and
is not disabled. § 404.1520(c); see McDaniel v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1031 (11th Cir. 1986) (stating
step two acts as a filter and “allows only claims based
on the most trivial impairments to be rejected”).
Third, if a claimant's impairments fail to meet or equal
an impairment in the Listings, she is not disabled. §
404.1520(d); 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. Fourth, if
a claimant's impairments do not prevent her from
performing past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). At this fourth step, the ALJ determines
the claimant's residual functional capacity
(RFC).Fifth, if a claimant's impairments
(considering her RFC, age, education, and past work) do not
prevent her from performing other work that exists in the
national economy, then she is not disabled. §
here determined Ms. Fivecoat had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity from her alleged onset date (September 28,
2013) through her last-insured date (December 31, 2013). (Tr.
17). The ALJ found Ms. Fivecoat had these severe impairments:
multiple sclerosis, hypertension, and arthritis.
(Id.). Despite these impairments, the ALJ found Ms.
Fivecoat's impairment or combination of impairments fail
to meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment in
the Listings. (Tr. 18).
found Ms. Fivecoat had an RFC to perform sedentary work from
September 28, 2013 through December 31, 2013. (Id.).
Specifically, Ms. Fivecoat could:
[S]it for six hours and stand/walk up to two hours each in an
8-hour workday. [Ms. Fivecoat] can lift and carry up to 10
pounds. [Ms. Fivecoat] can never climb ropes, ladders or
scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps and stairs; no crawling;
occasional kneeling; frequent bilateral manual dexterity
functions (fine and gross manipulation) and, must avoid
exposure to extreme heat and workplace hazards.
(Id.). Based on these findings, the testimony at the
hearing, and the opinions of a vocational expert (VE), the
ALJ determined Ms. Fivecoat could perform her past relevant
work from September 28, 2013 through December 31, 2013. (Tr.
22). As a result, the ALJ found Ms. Fivecoat not disabled
during that three-month period. (Tr. 23).
Standard of Review
of the ALJ's decision is limited to determining whether
the ALJ applied correct legal standards and whether
substantial evidence supports her findings. McRoberts v.
Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988);
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971).
Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less
than a preponderance. Dale v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). In other
words, there must be sufficient evidence for a reasonable
person to accept as enough to support the conclusion.
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995)
reviewing court must affirm a decision supported by
substantial evidence “even if the proof preponderates
against it.” Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d
1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). The
court must not make new factual determinations, reweigh
evidence, or substitute its judgment for the
Commissioner's decision. Id. at 1240 (citation
omitted). Instead, the court must view the whole record,
considering evidence favorable and unfavorable to the
Commissioner's decision. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1560;
see also Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th
Cir. 1992) (citation omitted) (stating that the reviewing
court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the Commissioner's factual
Issues on Appeal
Fivecoat argues these six issues on appeal: (1) whether the
ALJ properly considered the combined effect of Ms.
Fivecoat's impairments (Doc. 12, pp. 8-10); (2) whether
the ALJ posed a hypothetical to the VE that included all Ms.
Fivecoat's impairments (Id. at pp. 10-13); (3)
whether the ALJ properly weighed the opinions of Ms.
Fivecoat's treating physicians Michael Franklin, M.D. and
Corey Evans, M.D. (Id. at pp. 14-17); (4) whether
the ALJ wrongly substituted his own opinion for that of
physical therapist Zoltan Bouwhuis (Id. at pp.
22-23); (5) whether the ALJ adequately developed the duties
of Ms. Fivecoat's past relevant work as a general manager
(Id. at pp. 24-25); and (6) whether the ALJ properly
considered Ms. Fivecoat's subjective statements of
symptoms and limitations (Id. at pp. 26-28).
Combined Effect of Ms. Fivecoat's Impairments
Fivecoat argues the ALJ failed to properly consider the
combined effect of her impairments in reaching his RFC
determination. (Doc. 12, pp. 8-10). In response, the
Commissioner contends the ALJ properly considered Ms.
Fivecoat's impairments and substantial ...