United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff’s
appeal of an administrative decision denying his application
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). Following an administrative hearing held
on June 8, 2017, the assigned Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued a decision on September 11, 2017,
finding Plaintiff not disabled from September 22, 2014, the
amended alleged disability onset date, through June 30, 2017,
the date last insured. (Tr. 8-21, 46-97.)
reaching the decision, the ALJ found that through the date
last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), lumbar
disc protrusion at ¶ 5-S1 causing neural foraminal
narrowing, and carpal tunnel syndrome (“CTS”).
(Tr. 13.) The ALJ also found that through the date last
insured, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of light work.
(Tr. 15.) Then, after finding that Plaintiff was unable to
perform his past relevant work, the ALJ concluded, in light
of the testimony of the vocational expert (“VE”),
that “there were jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy” that Plaintiff could
have performed through his date last insured. (Tr. 19-20.)
is appealing the Commissioner’s decision that he was
not disabled from September 22, 2014 through June 30, 2017.
Plaintiff has exhausted his available administrative remedies
and the case is properly before the Court. Based on a review
of the record, the briefs, and the applicable law, the
Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED.
Standard of Review
scope of this Court’s review is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the Commissioner’s findings are
supported by substantial evidence, Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). Where
the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence, the district 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 district court must view the evidence
as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the decision. Foote v. Chater, 67
F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995); accord Lowery v.
Sullivan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating
the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the Commissioner’s factual findings).
The Parties’ Positions
first argument on appeal is that the ALJ erred in failing to
comply with Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 00-4p,
which imposes a duty on the ALJ to identify and resolve
apparent conflicts between the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles (“DOT”) and the VE’s testimony, as
to the “table worker” job. Specifically,
Plaintiff points out that under the DOT, the “table
worker” job requires frequent fingering, which was
inconsistent with the ALJ’s RFC assessment limiting
Plaintiff only to occasional fingering. As such, Plaintiff
contends that the ALJ should either eliminate the
“table worker” job from consideration or ask the
VE to explain how a person limited to occasional fingering
could perform a job requiring frequent fingering. Defendant
agrees that in light of Washington v. Commissioner
of Social Security, 906 F.3d 1353, 1361-65 (11th
Cir. 2018), and the specific facts of the present case, the
Commissioner should no longer consider the “table
worker” job. Nevertheless, Defendant maintains that the
two remaining representative occupations cited by the VE
support the ALJ’s finding that there was other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could have performed.
second argument concerns those two occupations, namely, the
“laundry sorter” job and the “garment
sorter” job. He argues that the ALJ erred in relying on
the VE’s testimony that there were 300, 000
“laundry sorter” jobs and 225, 000 “garment
sorter” jobs in the national economy. According to
Plaintiff, these numbers “appear to be grossly
overstated [even to] a lay person, ” and, at a minimum,
the ALJ should have questioned the numbers cited by the VE.
(Doc. 18 at 8.) Plaintiff adds:
The beginning part of the [VE’s] response gives a clue
as to why the numbers appear to be so overstated. The [VE]
stated[:] “I can give you a representative
group.” Although it is not clear through his testimony,
it should be apparent to the [ALJ] and this [C]ourt what he
means by a representative group.
The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics[, ]
groups occupations by similarities. The groups are known [as]
specific occupational categories (SOC). The Department of
Labor has developed a crosswalk grouping DOT numbers into SOC
groups. The SOC group for garment sorter is 51-9199
“production workers, all other.” . . . There are
1590 separate DOT occupations in SOC group 51-9199. According
to the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Occupational Employment Statistics, there are 230, 760
persons employed in this SOC group. So how did the [VE] come
up with 225, 000 jobs for this one DOT occupation? He did
not. The number was for the entire group. The job he
identified was a representative job within the group. The
problem with the testimony is that the adjudicator is not
advised of the number of jobs for that one particular DOT
occupation. The hypothetical to the [VE] only allowed for
occasional fingering. Although the one DOT occupation cited
by the [VE] only requires occasional fingering, the other DOT
occupations may require frequent fingering. The judge cannot
determine whether this is the case, without knowing the other
DOT numbers included in the [VE’s] estimates.
Therefore, he cannot comply with SSR 00-4P without having
this information. . . .
Also attached is information regarding the occupation of a
laundry sorter (classifier)[.] [T]his job is found within
group 51-9061 (inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and
weighers). There are 782 DOT occupations within this group.
In the entire group, there are 557, 510 persons employed. It
is inconceivable that 225, 000 of these jobs involves [sic]
classifying laundry. . . .
In this case, had the [ALJ] not included the limitation of
occasional fingering, it most likely would be an exercise in
futility to remand this matter for further [VE] testimony.
However, many of the jobs included in the occupational
groups, in which garment and laundry sorter are found, may
require frequent ...