United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
McCOY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is the Complaint, filed on May 1, 2018. (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her claim for supplemental
security income (“SSI”). The Commissioner filed
the Transcript of the proceedings (hereinafter referred to as
“Tr.” followed by the appropriate page number),
and the parties filed a joint memorandum detailing their
respective positions. For the reasons set forth herein, the
decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED
pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility, the ALJ Decision, and
Standard of Review
defines disability as the inability to do any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result
in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be
severe, making the Plaintiff unable to do her previous work
or any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505-.1511,
December 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (Tr. at 93). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of March
16, 2005. (Id. at 927). Her application was denied
initially on February 11, 2011 and again on reconsideration
on July 14, 2011. (Id. at 93-94). A hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) John
Murdock on April 22, 2013. (Id. at 54). ALJ Murdock
issued an unfavorable decision on June 27, 2013, finding
Plaintiff not to be under a disability. (Id. at
23-24). Plaintiff requested a review of the decision, which
the Appeals Council denied. (Id. at 1).
then appealed to the United States District Court, which
remanded the claim on March 17, 2015. (Id. at
1049-50). The Appeals Council vacated the Commissioner's
final decision and remanded the claim to an ALJ for further
proceedings. (Id. at 1043-45). A second hearing was
held before ALJ Maria C. Northington in Fort Myers, Florida,
on November 7, 2016. (Id. at 947). ALJ Northington
issued an unfavorable decision on February 23, 2017.
(Id. at 940). Plaintiff requested a review of that
decision, and on March 16, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (Id. at 918-20).
Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the United States District
Court on June 28, 2018. (Doc. 1). This case is ripe for
review. The parties consented to proceed before a United
States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings. (Doc. 15).
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if a Plaintiff has proven that he is disabled.
Packer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 542 Fed.Appx.
890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)). An ALJ must
determine whether the Plaintiff: (1) is performing
substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment;
(3) has a severe impairment that meets or equals an
impairment specifically listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1; (4) can perform her past relevant work; and
(5) can perform other work found in the national economy.
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-40 (11th
Cir. 2004). The Plaintiff has the burden of proof through
step four, and then the burden shifts to the Commissioner at
step five. Hines-Sharp v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
511 Fed.Appx. 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir. 2013).
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since December 15, 2010, the
application date. (Tr. at 929). At step two, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: “bipolar disorder, schizoaffective
disorder NOS, depressive disorder NOS, and borderline
intellectual functioning (BIF).” (Id. at 930
(citing 20 C.F.R. 416.920(c))). At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1. (Id. (citing 16 C.F.R. §
416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926)). At step four, the ALJ
determined the following as to Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”):
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform a wide range of work at all
exertional levels that implicitly include the performance of
sedentary to heavy work, but with the following
non-exertional limitations. She has no postural limitations
with the exception that [she] should avoid climbing ropes and
scaffolds, but her ability to climb ladders is not affected.
She retains the capacity to understand, remember, and carry
out simple instructions and perform simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks as consistent with unskilled work. In the
course of work, she is to have no in-person contact with the
public, except for incidental contact and telephonic contact.
She is capable of only occasional contact with coworkers and
supervisors. In this instance, occasional is defined as
interaction and coordination but not necessarily proximity to
(Id. at 932).
further found that Plaintiff had no past relevant work and
that considering her “age, education, work experience,
and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that [she] can
perform.” (Id. at 938 (citing 20 C.F.R. §
416.969(a)). Thus, the ALJ ...