United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER P. TUTTE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the Commissioner’s
denial of his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).
For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner’s
decision is affirmed.
Plaintiff was born in 1969, completed the eleventh grade, and
has past relevant work experience as a window repairer. (R.
44-45, 58-59). In December 2014, the Plaintiff applied for
DIB, alleging disability as of June 15, 2012, due to diabetes
and high blood pressure. (R. 68). The Social Security
Administration (SSA) denied his application both initially
and on reconsideration. (R. 67-88).
Plaintiff’s request, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
conducted a hearing on the matter on February 7, 2017. (R.
37-66). The Plaintiff was represented by counsel at that
hearing and testified on his own behalf. (R. 39-58). A
vocational expert (VE) also testified. (R. 58-64).
decision dated July 21, 2017, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff: (1) was insured for DIB through December 31, 2014,
and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from the
time of his alleged onset date through his date last insured;
(2) had the severe impairments of obesity, diabetes, sleep
apnea, hypertension, and peripheral neuropathy; (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 a limited range of light work through his
date last insured; and (5) based in part on the VE’s
testimony, could not perform his past relevant work but was
capable of performing jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy through that time period. (R.
7-23). In light of these findings, the ALJ concluded that the
Plaintiff was not disabled. Id.
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); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 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),
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 Fed.App’x 737, 739
(11th Cir. 2018) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(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 engage in his past relevant work; and (5) can
perform other jobs in the national economy given his RFC,
age, education, and work experience. Id. (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
Fed.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 he 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. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial
review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal standards and whether the decision
is supported by substantial evidence. See 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
Fed.App’x at 739 (citing Moore v. Barnhart,
405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005)). “[W]hile 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
appeal, the Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to
properly: (1) assess the retrospective opinion of his
treating physician, Dr. Brandi Johnson; (2) evaluate his
subjective complaints; and (3) consider all of the relevant
medical evidence. (Doc. 22 at 10-31). The Commissioner
counters that the ALJ’s treatment of the evidence was
both appropriate and adequately supported by the record.
Id. Upon thorough review of the record and the
parties’ submissions, the Court finds no basis for
reversal or remand.
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
Fed.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 [his]
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. 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 explanation supporting the
doctor’s opinion; (4) how consistent the doctor’s
opinion is with the record as a whole; and (5) the
doctor’s area of specialization. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c). While the ALJ is required to consider each of
these factors, he need not explicitly address them in his
decision. Lawton v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 431
Fed.App’x 830, 833 (11th Cir. 2011).
the ALJ must afford the testimony of a treating physician
substantial or considerable weight unless “good
cause” is shown to the contrary. Crawford, 363
F.3d at 1159 (citation omitted). Good cause exists where the:
“(1) treating physician’s opinion was not
bolstered by the evidence; (2) evidence supported a contrary
finding; or (3) treating physician’s opinion was
conclusory or inconsistent with the doctor’s own
medical records.” Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241
(citation omitted); see also Crawford, 363 F.3d at
1159. This Circuit has also held that a treating
physician’s opinion is not entitled to great weight
“if evidence of the claimant’s daily activities
contradicts the opinion.” Jarrett v. Comm’r
of Soc. Sec., 422 Fed.App’x 869, 873 (11th Cir.
2011) (citing Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241).
the Plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. Johnson,
provided care to the Plaintiff from March to June 2015 for
burns on his right leg and foot that he claims stemmed from
his diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. (Doc. 22 at 8-9). On
May 13, 2017, Dr. Johnson performed a physical functional
capacity assessment of the Plaintiff and provided a
retrospective assessment of his restrictions dating back to
November 1, 2014, roughly two months before his date last
insured. (R. 33-36). In her assessment, Dr. Johnson opined
that, after November 1, 2014, the Plaintiff suffered from a
number of significant exertional limitations that confined
him to less than sedentary work during the relevant time
frame. (R. 16, 34).
decision, the ALJ afforded Dr. Johnson’s opinion
“little weight.” As support for this assessment
and as noted above, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was less
restricted than Dr. Johnson determined and that his claimed
impairments were not disabling. Id. The ALJ also