United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. IRICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Nicole Brinson (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her application for
supplemental security income. Doc. 1. Claimant argues that:
1) the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred by failing to
fully and fairly develop the record in this case (Doc. 15 at
10); and 2) that the Appeals Council erred by failing to
apply the correct legal standard when considering new
evidence submitted in support of Claimant's request for
review. Id. at 15. Claimant requests that the Court
remand the case for further administrative proceedings.
Id. at 20. For the reasons set forth below, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's
final decision be AFFIRMED.
November 6, 2015, Claimant filed an application for
supplemental security income. R. 10. This application was
denied initially on January 5, 2016 and again upon
reconsideration on February 12, 2016. R. 10. On February 19,
2016, Claimant filed a written request for a hearing. R.
10. On September 6, 2017, Claimant and
Claimant's Mother, Lisa Mitchell, appeared and testified
at the hearing. R. 10. On October 30, 2017, the ALJ found
that Claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act from November 6, 2015 through the date of
the decision. R. 20. Claimant requested that the Appeals
Council review the ALJ's decision and submitted one
document to the Appeals Council as additional evidence. R.
1-6. The Appeals Council found no basis for changing the
ALJ's decision and denied Claimant's request for
review on August 9, 2018. R. 1. Therefore, the ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision. This
THE ALJ'S DECISION
issued his final decision deny Claimant's application for
supplemental security income on October 30, 2017. R. 20. In
the decision, the ALJ found that Claimant has the following
severe impairments: social anxiety disorder, dependent
personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, and
depressive disorder. R. 12. However, the ALJ determined that
Claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
any listed impairment. R. 12.
found that Claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) to perform “a full range of work at all
exertional levels” but with the following specific
[C]ould lift and carry 100 lbs. occasionally and 50 lbs.
frequently. She could sit for six hours, stand for up to six
hours, and walk for up to six hours. She could push and pull
as much as she can lift and carry. She should have no
exposure to unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts.
She is limited to simple tasks and simple work related
decisions. She is limited to no more than occasional
interaction with supervisors, and co-workers, and no
interaction with the public. Time off task is up to 10% of
the 8-hour workday, in addition to normal breaks.
R. 14. The ALJ also found that Claimant was a “younger
individual, ” as defined in 20 CFR § 416.963, on
the date the application was filed; that Claimant had at
least a high school education and is able to communicate in
English; and that transferability of job skills is not an
issue because Claimant does not have past relevant
work. R. 19. Based on these findings, and on the
vocational expert's testimony at the hearing, the ALJ
determined that Claimant is capable of making successful
adjustment to work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. R. 20. The ALJ therefore found that
Claimant was not disabled from November 6, 2015, the date the
application was filed, through the date of the decision. R.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of the Court's review is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards,
and whether the Commissioner's findings of fact are
supported by substantial evidence. Winschel v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011)
(quotations omitted). The Commissioner's findings of fact
are conclusive if they are supported by substantial evidence,
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which is defined as “more than
a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1440 (11th Cir. 1997). The Court must view the evidence as a
whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the Commissioner's decision, when
determining whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th
Cir. 1995). The Court may not reweigh evidence or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner, and, even if the
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
decision, the reviewing court must affirm it if the decision
is supported by substantial evidence. Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
reasons that follow, the undersigned finds that Claimant has
not established that she was prejudiced by the ALJ's
failure to require further consultative testing, nor has she
established that the Appeals Counsel failed to apply the
correct legal standard in considering new evidence submitted
in support of Claimant's request for review. Accordingly,
as set forth in the following paragraphs, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Court reject
Claimant's assignments of error.
Failure to Fully and Fairly Develop the Record
argues that the ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the
record. Doc. 15 at 10. Claimant explains that the
consultative examiner, Dr. Trinidad, opined that
“'[f]urther in-depth evaluation is needed to rule
[out] any neurodevelopmental factors, ” that ARNP
Mahatha “noted [Claimant] required a referral for
psychological testing to rule out autism spectrum disorder,
” and that Claimant's Mother testified that
claimant “needed an [in-depth] evaluation.” Doc.
15 at 9-10. Claimant asserts that she was prejudiced by the
ALJ's failure to order further testing because,
according to Claimant, this failure rendered the ALJ unable
to properly evaluate whether Claimant met or equaled the
requirements of Listing 12.02 for Neurocognitive
Disorders. Doc. 15 at 10.
initial matter, Claimant overstates the recommendation made
by Dr. Trinidad, who, out of the three recommenders Claimant
cites, is the only acceptable medical source. Claimant seems
to suggest that Dr. Trinidad's statement that
“further in-depth evaluation is needed to rule out
neurodevelopmental factors” equates to a recommendation
that Claimant be evaluated for a Neurocognitive Disorder as
defined under Listing 12.02. See Id. In fact, Dr.
Trinidad's statement appears in the context of a
paragraph discussing the unclear etiology of Claimant's
symptoms and actually seems to suggest that further testing
would be necessary to rule out neurodevelopmental factors as
they relate to the cause of Claimant's already existing
symptoms.See R. 13. In other words, Dr.
Trinidad's statements speak to further ...