United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER P. TUTTE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the Commissioner’s
denial of her claims for Child’s Insurance Benefits
(CIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. For
the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner’s
decision is affirmed.
Plaintiff was born in 1993, completed high school, and has no
past relevant work experience. (R. 20, 23, 249). In May 2015,
the Plaintiff applied for CIB and SSI, alleging disability as
of December 1, 2011, due to disruptive behavior, mild
retardation, attention deficit disorder, reactive attachment
disorder, and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (R.
116, 144). The Social Security Administration denied the
Plaintiff’s applications both initially and on
reconsideration. (R. 144-233).
Plaintiff’s request, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
conducted a hearing on the matter on June 12, 2017. (R.
12-48). The Plaintiff was represented by counsel at that
hearing and testified on her own behalf. Id. A
vocational expert (VE) also testified. Id.
decision dated June 27, 2017, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff: (1) had neither attained the age of
twenty-two nor engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date; (2) had the severe
impairments of a learning disability, major depression,
reactive attachment disorder, pervasive developmental
disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, PTSD, mood
disorder not otherwise specified, and attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); (3) did not, however, have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of any of the listed
impairments; (4) had the residual functional capacity (RFC)
to perform the full range of work subject to certain
non-exertional limitations; and (5) based upon the VE’s
testimony, was capable of performing jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy-namely, the
representative occupations of cleaner, marking clerk, and
advertising material distributor. (R. 237-57). In light of
these findings, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff was not
disabled. (R. 250-51).
Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff’s request for
review. (R. 1-6). Accordingly, the ALJ’s decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner.
Social Security Act (the Act) defines disability as the
“inability 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),
1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a). A physical or
mental impairment under the Act “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), 1382c(a)(3)(D).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Social Security
Regulations (Regulations) prescribe “a five-step,
sequential evaluation process.” Carter v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 726 F. App’x 737, 739
(11th Cir. 2018) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)); 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). Under this process, an ALJ must
determine whether the claimant: (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) has the RFC to perform past relevant work;
and (5) can perform other work in the national economy given
her RFC, age, education, and work experience.
Carter, 726 F. App’x at 739 (citing
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir.
2004); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4)).
While the claimant has the burden of proof through step four,
the burden temporarily shifts to the Commissioner at step
five. Sampson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 694 F.
App’x 727, 734 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing Jones v.
Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)). If the
Commissioner carries that burden, the claimant must then
prove that she cannot perform the work identified by the
Commissioner. Id. In the end, “the overall
burden of demonstrating the existence of a disability . . .
rests with the claimant.” Washington v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 906 F.3d 1353, 1359 (11th
Cir. 2018) (quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1280 (11th Cir. 2001)).
claimant who does not prevail at the administrative level may
seek judicial review in federal court provided that the
Commissioner has issued a final decision on the matter after
a hearing. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner’s
decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether he
applied the correct legal standards. Id.;
Hargress v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm’r,
883 F.3d 1302, 1305 n.2 (11th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Hargress,
883 F.3d at 1305 n.2 (quoting Crawford v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004)). In
evaluating whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner’s decision, the Court “may not
decide the facts anew, make credibility determinations, or
re-weigh the evidence.” Carter, 726 F.
App’x at 739 (citing Moore v. Barnhart, 405
F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam)). While the
court accords deference to the Commissioner’s factual
findings, “no such deference is given to [his] legal
conclusions.” Keel-Desensi v. Berryhill, 2019
WL 1417326, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 29, 2019) (citations
Plaintiff claims on appeal that the ALJ did not properly
evaluate the opinion of a licensed psychologist, Dr. Scott
Hoch, who examined her in January 2014. (Doc. 21 at 21-31).
The Commissioner counters that the ALJ’s assessment of
Dr. Hoch’s opinion complies with the applicable
regulations and is supported by substantial evidence.
Id. at 31-38. Upon a thorough review of the record
and the parties’ submissions, the Court agrees with the
evaluating an individual’s disability claim, an ALJ
“must consider all medical opinions in a
claimant’s case record, together with other relevant
evidence.” McClurkin v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 625
F. App’x 960, 962 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(b)). “‘Medical opinions are
statements from physicians and psychologists or other
acceptable medical sources that reflect judgments about the
nature and severity of [the claimant’s] impairment(s),
including [the claimant’s] symptoms, diagnosis and
prognosis, what [the claimant] can still do despite [her]
impairment(s), and [the claimant’s] physical or mental
restrictions.’” Winschel v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178-79 (11th Cir. 2011)
(quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(a)(2)). If a
doctor’s statement rises to the level of a
“medical opinion, ” an ALJ “must state with
particularity” the weight given to that opinion
“and the reasons therefor.” Id. at 1179
(citation omitted). In rendering this determination, the ALJ
must consider: (1) whether the doctor has examined the
claimant; (2) the length, nature, and extent of the
doctor’s relationship with the claimant; (3) the
medical evidence and the explanation supporting the
doctor’s opinion; ...