United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
NICHOLAS P. MIZELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the Complaint, filed on
August 20, 2018. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying his claim for a
period of disability and disability insurance and
supplemental security income benefits. The Commissioner filed
the Transcript of the proceedings (hereinafter referred to as
“Tr.” followed by the appropriate page number),
and the parties filed a Joint Memorandum (Doc. 21). For the
reasons set out herein, the decision of the Commissioner is
AFFIRMED pursuant to § 205(g) of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility and the ALJ Decision
defines disability as the inability to do any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result
in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be
severe, making the claimant unable to do his previous work or
any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 -404.1511,
416.905 - 416.911.
January 24, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Keith C. Pilkey
rendered a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from
September 1, 2010, through the date of the decision. (Tr. at
83). On March 2, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff’s request for review of ALJ Pilkey’s
decision. (Id. at 91).
April 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed applications for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income benefits. (Tr. at 114, 227-264). Plaintiff
asserted an onset date of January 25, 2014. (Id. at
227). Plaintiff’s applications was denied initially on
May 26, 2015, and on reconsideration on September 28, 2015.
(Id. at 114, 115, 144, 145). Administrative Law
Judge Troy M. Patterson (“ALJ”) held a hearing on
November 2, 2016. (Id. at 41-64). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on October 3, 2017. (Id. at
10-21). The ALJ found Plaintiff not to be under a disability
from January 25, 2014, through the date of the decision.
(Id. at 20).
21, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s
request for review. (Id. at 1-6). Plaintiff filed a
Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on
August 20, 2018. This case is ripe for review. The parties
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge
for all proceedings. (See Doc. 14).
Summary of the ALJ’s Decision
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if a claimant has proven that he is disabled.
Packer v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 542 F.
App’x 890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v.
Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)). 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) can perform his past relevant work; and
(5) can perform other work of the sort found in the national
economy. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1237-40 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant has the burden of
pursuant and proof through step four and then the burden
shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987); Hines-Sharp
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 511 F. App’x 913,
915 n.2 (11th Cir. 2013).
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2016. (Tr. at 13). At step one of the
sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 25,
2014, the alleged onset date. (Id. at 13). At step
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the
following severe impairments: “Parkinson’s
disease (PD); and spinal degenerative disc disease
(status-post anterior cervical spinal fusion surgery) (20
[C.F.R. §§] 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).”
(Id.). At step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P,
app. 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926). (Id. at 16).
four, the ALJ determined the following as to
Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 [C.F.R. §§] 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except:
lift/carry up to 10 pounds occasionally, stand for one out of
8 hours, 30 minutes at a time, walk for one out of 8 hours,
30 minutes at a time, sit for 6 out of 8 hours, 3 hours at a
time, with need to use a cane for walking outside, with
ability to occasionally push/pull and frequently reach,
handle, finger and feel with the hands and frequently operate
foot controls, unable to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds,
or to crouch or crawl, but able to occasionally perform other
postural activities such as climbing ramps/stairs, balancing,
stooping and kneeling, with no exposure to unprotected
elevations or operation of motor vehicles, but with
occasional exposure to moving mechanical parts, humidity and
wetness, and frequent exposure to pulmonary irritants,
temperature extremes and vibration, with ability to shop,
travel alone, walk without 2 canes or crutches, walk a block
at a reasonable pace on a rough or uneven surface, use public
transportation, climb a few steps at a reasonable pace with a
single handrail, sort, handle and use paper files, and carry
out personal care such as meal preparation, self-feeding and
maintenance of personal hygiene.
(Id. at 16-17).
determined that Plaintiff is unable to perform his past
relevant work as a salesclerk and kitchen helper.
(Id. at 19). The ALJ considered Plaintiff’s
age, education, work experience, and residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), and found that there were jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff can perform. (Id. at 20). The ALJ
noted that the vocational expert identified the following
representational occupations that an individual with
Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC
would be able to perform: (1) plastic design applier, DOT #
690.686-046; (2) document preparer, DOT # 249.587-018; and
(3) table worker, DOT # 739.687-182.
(Id.). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
under a disability at any time from January 25, 2014, through
the date of the decision. (Id.).
Standard of Review
scope of this Court’s review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the findings are supported by substantial
evidence, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971). 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); Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401).
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, 67
F.3d at 1560; accord Lowery v. Sullivan, 979 F.2d
835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (court must scrutinize the entire
record to determine reasonableness of factual findings).
appeal, Plaintiff raises the following issues, as stated by
(1) Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff’s
(2) Whether the ALJ failed to properly develop the record;
(3) Whether the ALJ erred in relying on the vocational
expert’s statement that an individual with
Plaintiff’s RFC was capable of making a successful
adjustment to work that exists in significant numbers in the
(4) Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Dr.
(5) Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff’s
(Doc. 21 at 17, 28, 32, 40, 42). The Court addresses each
Whether the ALJ Properly Assessed Plaintiff’s ...