United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
C. IRICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tajae Baxter (Claimant) appeals to the District Court from a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
Commissioner) denying his application supplemental security
income. Doc. 1; R. 1-6, 178-87. Claimant argued, in part,
that the Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ) erred by
mischaracterizing the record. Doc. 19 at 15-19, 22-27. For
the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's final
decision is REVERSED and
THE ALJ'S DECISION
February 5, 2015, Claimant filed an application for
supplemental security income. R. 15, 178-87. Claimant alleged
a disability onset date of January 21, 1997. Id.
issued his decision on September 7, 2017. R. 17-31. In his
decision, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following
severe impairments: sickle cell disease, obstructive sleep
apnea, asthma/restrictive lung disease, and scoliosis. R.
17-19. The ALJ found that Claimant did not meet or medically
equal the severity of one of the listed impairments and found
that Claimant had an RFC to perform less than a full range of
light work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §
416.967(b). R. 19-20. Specifically, the ALJ found as
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b) with certain additional limitations.
Specifically, the claimant is able to lift, carry, push and
pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and is
able to sit, stand and walk for up to 6 hours each out of an
8-hour workday. He can climb ramps and stairs occasionally,
but should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. Further,
the claimant can frequently balance, but is able to
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. Furthermore, the
claimant is limited to occasional exposure to dust, odors,
fumes, pulmonary irritants, extreme heat, extreme cold, and
vibration. Lastly, the claimant must avoid exposure to
hazards, such as unprotected heights and moving machinery.
R. 20. The ALJ then found that Claimant was capable of
performing jobs that existed in significant numbers in the
national economy and, therefore, that Claimant was not
disabled between the date of Claimant's disability
application and the date of the ALJ's decision. R. 23-24.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Social Security appeals, [the court] must determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is ‘supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal
standards.'” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). The Commissioner's findings of fact are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla
- i.e., the evidence must do more than merely create a
suspicion of the existence of a fact and must include such
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support the conclusion. Foote v. Chater,
67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing Walden v.
Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982) and
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Where the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, the court will affirm, even if the
reviewer would have reached a contrary result as finder of
fact, and even if the reviewer finds that the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's decision.
Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th
Cir. 1991); Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358
(11th Cir. 1991). The court must view the evidence as a
whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the decision. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1560.
The court “‘may not decide the facts anew,
reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that
of the [Commissioner].'” Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239
(11th Cir. 1983)).
argues that the ALJ erred by mischaracterizing the record.
Specifically, Claimant argues, in part, that the ALJ: (1)
“erroneously stated that [Claimant] ‘did not
require treatment in 2016'”; and (2) erroneously
stated that neither Claimant nor his attorney alleged that
Claimant had an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals any listed impairment. Doc. 19 at
15-19, 22-27. The undersigned agrees.
Diorio v. Heckler, 721 F.2d 726, 728 (11th
Cir.1983), the Eleventh Circuit held that an ALJ's
misstatement of fact is harmless error if it does not affect
the ALJ's conclusion. However, Courts in this district
have found that if the ALJ makes a misstatement of fact that
is material or integral to the ALJ's ultimate decision,
then the misstatement is not harmless and remand may be
warranted. See Bissinger v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
2014 WL 5093981, at *5-6 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 9, 2014) (finding
that the ALJ's misstatement of fact was not harmless)
(citations omitted); see also White v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2010 WL 3467413, at *15-16
(M.D. Fla. Aug. 3, 2010) (finding that the ALJ's decision
was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ
misstatement of fact substantially affected the ALJ's
ultimate conclusion), report and recommendation
adopted, 2010 WL 3448617 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 1, 2010);
but see Washington v. Astrue, 2009 WL 2949034, at
*14 (M.D. Fla. Sept 14, 2009) (finding that the ALJ made a
material misstatement of fact, but that a single erroneous
statement by the ALJ did not require remand) (citation
omitted). In addition, Courts in this district have found
that remand may be warranted where the ALJ misstates and
mischaracterizes the record evidence on numerous points, even
if only one such misstatement, standing alone, would not have
necessitated remand. See Beckford v. Berryhill, 2017
WL 3835859, *7-9 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 16, 2017) (noting that the
ALJ's numerous errors called into question the accuracy
of the ALJ's decision); Smith v. Astrue, 2009 WL
3157639, *3-6 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 25, 2009) (finding that the
ALJ's misstatements, taken as a whole, indicated that the
ALJ failed to properly consider all the evidence);
Flentroy-Tennant v. Astrue, 2008 WL 876961, *6-8
(M.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2008) (noting that the ALJ's numerous
misstatements revealed an inaccurate review of the record).
first argument, Claimant argued that the ALJ erroneously
stated that Claimant did not require treatment in 2016. In
his decision, the ALJ stated, in part, as follows:
The record shows that the claimant has required several short
hospitalizations for symptoms associated with his sickle cell
anemia. Namely, he was hospitalized in 2015 and again earlier
this year. He, however, did not require treatment in
2016. In fact, the record shows no treatment at the
Cancer Institute of ...