United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
R. HOFFMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Valentine (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social
Security's (Commissioner) final decision denying his
applications for disability benefits. (Doc. 1). The Claimant
raises two assignments of error challenging the
Commissioner's final decision and, based on those
assignments of error, requests that the matter be reversed
and remanded for further proceedings. (Doc. 17 at 9-11,
19-20, 22). The Commissioner argues that the Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) committed no legal error and that his
decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be
affirmed. (Id. at 11-23). Upon review of the record,
the Court finds that the Commissioner's final decision is
due to be AFFIRMED.
case stems from the Claimant's applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (R. 199, 208-14). The Claimant originally alleged a
disability onset date of May 21, 2016, which he later amended
to June 1, 2016. (R. 199, 208). The Claimant's
applications were denied on initial review and on
reconsideration. The matter then proceeded to a hearing
before an ALJ. On March 29, 2018, the ALJ entered a decision
denying the Claimant's applications for disability
benefits. (R. 12-24). The Claimant requested review of the
ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied his
request for review. (R. 1-3). This appeal followed.
The ALJ's Decision
found that the Claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine;
obesity; diabetes mellitus; and hypertension. (R. 15). The
ALJ also found that the Claimant suffered from the following
non-severe impairments: dyslipidemia; carotid artery
stenosis; status post right thigh wound with skin graft
surgery; cataract, anemia; adjustment disorder; and a history
of substance abuse. (R. 15-18). The ALJ determined that none
of the foregoing impairments, individually or in combination,
met or medically equaled any listed impairment. (R. 18).
proceeded to find that the Claimant has the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) and §
416.967(c) with the following specific limitations:
[T]he claimant can lift, carry, push and pull fifty (50)
pounds occasionally and twenty-five (25) pounds frequently.
The claimant can sit, stand and walk for up to six (6) hours
each out of an 8-hour workday. He can frequently balance,
stoop and crouch but, only occasionally kneel and crawl. He
can . . . only occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders,
ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can have occasional exposure
to extreme cold, extreme heat, vibration, and hazards, such
as unprotected heights and moving machinery.
18). Based on this RFC, the ALJ found that the Claimant could
perform his past relevant work as a sales route driver. (R.
22-23). In addition, the ALJ found that the Claimant could
perform other work in the national economy, including
conveyor feeder, floor waxer, and box bender. (R. 23-24). In
light of these findings, the ALJ concluded that the Claimant
was not disabled between his alleged onset date, June 1,
2016, through the date of the ALJ's decision, March 29,
2018. (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. Winschel v.
Comm'rof 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, 67 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 two assignments of error: 1) the ALJ failed
to satisfy his duty to fully and fairly develop the record;
and 2) the ALJ's decision to assign Dr. Bettye
Stanley's opinion little weight was not supported by
substantial evidence. (Doc. 17 at 9-11, 19-20). The Court
will address each assignment of error in turn.
Duty to Develop.
Claimant argues that given the limited number of treatment
records from the relevant period the ALJ should have ordered
a consultative examination. (Doc. 17 at 10). The ALJ did not
order a consultative examination and, according to the
Claimant, he instead "cherry picked" and
"mischaracterized" findings from the treatment
records to support his ultimate determination that the
Claimant was not disabled. (Id. at 10-11). The
Claimant argues that the ALJ failed to apply the correct
legal standards and his decision is not supported by
substantial evidence. (Id. at 11).
Commissioner contends that the ALJ had sufficient evidence to
make an informed decision and the Claimant has not shown any
evidentiary gaps in the record that should have been
addressed through a consultative examination. (Id.
at 12-13). Further, the Commissioner contends that the ALJ
did not cherry pick or mischaracterize the treatment records
from the relevant period. (Id. at 16-18). Thus, the
Commissioner argues that the ALJ was under ...