United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
G. WILSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff in this case seeks judicial review of the denial of
her claim for Social Security disability
benefits. Because the Commissioner of Social
Security failed to give proper consideration to the opinion
of a treating doctor after the submission of that additional
evidence, the decision of the Commissioner will be reversed
and the matter remanded for further consideration.
plaintiff, who was forty-four years old at the time of the
administrative decision, and who has a high school education,
has past relevant work as a certified nurse assistant (Tr.
58-60). She filed a claim for Social Security disability
benefits, alleging that she became disabled due to pain and
swelling from her neck to lower back, pain in her arms,
numbness in her hands, and depression (Tr. 61-62, 72). The
claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
plaintiff, at her request, then received a de novo
hearing before an administrative law judge. The law judge
found that the plaintiff has severe impairments of
"spine disorders, dysfunction, and major joint
(bilateral shoulders)" (Tr. 13). She determined that, as
a result of these impairments, the plaintiff had the
following residual functional capacity (Tr. 13-14):
[The ability] to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b) except that the claimant requires a sit/stand
option in 30 minute intervals; she can push/pull with the
bilateral upper extremities not more than occasionally; she
cannot perform overhead reaching with the bilateral upper
extremity more than occasionally, and she cannot perform
forward reaching with the bilateral upper extremities more
than frequently. The claimant could perform postural
maneuvers occasionally, except for climbing ladders, ropes
and scaffolds and crawling, which may never be performed. The
claimant should have no more than occasional exposure to
hazards such as unprotected heights and moving machinery.
judge found that, with these limitations, the plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr. 17). However,
based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the law judge
determined that the plaintiff could perform other jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy, such as
hand packager, hand stuffer, and table worker (Tr. 18). The
law j udge therefore decided that the plaintiff was not
plaintiff sought review by, and submitted new evidence to,
the Appeals Council (see Tr. 2). The Appeals Council
"found no reason under [its] rules to review the
Administrative Law Judge's decision" (Tr. 1). The
Appeals Council let the decision of the law judge stand as
the final decision of the defendant (id.).
order to be entitled to Social Security disability benefits,
a claimant must be unable "to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which ... has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months." 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A). A "physical or
mental impairment," under the terms of the Social
Security Act, is one "that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(3).
determination by the Commissioner that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Substantial evidence is
"such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971), quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305
U.S. 197, 229 (1938). Under the substantial evidence test,
"findings of fact made by administrative agencies ...
may be reversed ... only when the record compels a reversal;
the mere fact that the record may support a contrary
conclusion is not enough to justify a reversal of the
administrative findings." Adefemi v. Ashcroft.
386 F.3d 1022, 1027 (11th Cir. 2004) (en
banc), cert. denied. 544 U.S. 1035
moreover, the function of the Commissioner, and not the
courts, to resolve conflicts in the evidence and to assess
the credibility of the witnesses. Grant v.
Richardson. 445 F.2d 656 (5th Cir. 1971).
Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Commissioner to
draw inferences from the evidence, and those inferences are
not to be overturned if they are supported by substantial
evidence. Celebrezze v. O'Brient. 323 F.2d 989,
990 (5th Cir. 1963).
in determining whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the court is not to
reweigh the evidence, but is limited to determining whether
the record as a whole contains sufficient evidence to permit
a reasonable mind to conclude that the claimant is not
disabled. However, the court, in its review, must satisfy
itself that the proper legal ...