United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. HOFFMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT:
Maureen Marcisz (Claimant) appeals the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her application for
disability benefits. (Doc. 1). The Claimant raises several
arguments challenging the Commissioner's final decision
and, based on those arguments, requests that the matter be
reversed and remanded for an award of benefits or, in the
alternative, further proceedings. (Doc. 22 at 11-17, 21-26,
28-30, 33). The Commissioner argues that the Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) committed no legal error and that his
decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be
affirmed. (Id. at 17-21, 26-28, 30-33). Upon review
of the record, the undersigned respectfully
RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's final
decision be AFFIRMED
case stems from the Claimant's application for disability
insurance benefits (DIB). (R. 177-78). The Claimant alleged a
disability onset date of February 8, 2013. (R. 177). The
Claimant's application was denied on initial review and
on reconsideration. The matter then proceeded before an ALJ,
who held a hearing, which was attended by the Claimant and
her representative. (R. 36-68). On March 8, 2018, the ALJ
entered a decision denying the Claimant's application for
disability benefits. (R. 15-29). The Claimant requested
review of the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council
denied her request. (R. 1-3). This appeal followed.
The ALJ's Decision
2Ol5. (R. 18). This is significant because a claimant seeking
DIB is eligible for such benefits where she demonstrates
disability on or before her date last insured. Moore v.
Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005).
Therefore, the Claimant was required to demonstrate that she
became disabled sometime between her alleged onset date
andDecember3l, 2015. Id.
found that the Claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments during the relevant period: migraine headache
disorder; a history of vertigo; bilateral shoulder
degenerative joint disease; and a mental impairment variously
diagnosed as a depressive disorder and an anxiety disorder.
(R. 18). The ALJ also found that the Claimant suffered from
the following non-severe impairments: carpal tunnel syndrome;
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); diverticulosis; obesity;
chronic fatigue syndrome; insomnia; and low back pain. (R.
18-19). The ALJ, however, determined that the Claimant did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled any listed impairment. (R. 20-22).
proceeded to find that the Claimant had a residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1567(b) during the relevant period, with the
following additional limitations:
[Claimant] would not be able to climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds and would also be limited to performing all other
postural activities on an occasional basis (climbing ramps
and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling); could also frequently reach overhead with the
bilateral upper extremities; would also need to avoid
concentrated exposure to hazards, such as unprotected heights
and/or dangerous machinery, and also noise of a moderate or
greater level in the workplace; would also be limited to no
greater than unskilled work duties as would be consistent
with an SVP of 1 to 2 but no greater than 2; and lastly,
would not be expected to have greater than occasional
interaction with coworkers, supervisors, or members of the
(R. 22). In light of this RFC, the ALJ found that the
Claimant was unable to perform her past relevant work. (R.
27). However, relying on the VE's testimony from the
hearing, the ALJ found that the Claimant was capable of
performing other work in the national economy, including work
as a garment sorter, electronics worker, and shoe packer. (R.
27-28). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that the Claimant was
not disabled between her alleged onset date, February 8,
2013, through her date last insured, December 31, 2015. (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). 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, 67F.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).
Claimant raises the following assignments of error: 1) the
ALJ erred by assigning no significant weight to portions of
the opinion of Dr. Guillermo Mendoza-Fonseca, the
Claimant's treating physician; 2) the ALJ's
hypothetical question to the vocational expert (VE) did not
include or account for all of the Claimant's functional
limitations; and 3) the ALJ failed to offer specific reasons
in support of his credibility determination. (Doc. 22 at
11-17, 21-26, 28-30). The undersigned will address each
assignment of error in turn.
Dr. Mendoza-Fonseca's Opinion
Claimant contends that the ALJ ignored evidence in the record
which supports Dr. Mendoza-Fonseca's opinion, and instead
improperly cherry-picked other evidence to support the
ALJ's decision to assign no significant weight to
portions of Dr. Mendoza-Fonseca's opinion. (Doc. 22 at
13-14). Therefore, the Claimant argues that the ALJ failed to
provide "adequate reasons" to assign no significant
weight to portions of Dr. Mendoza-Fonseca's opinion.
(Id. at 17).
response, the Commissioner argues that the ALJ properly
considered all the evidence of record and did not cherry-pick
evidence when weighing Dr. Mendoza-Fonseca's opinion.
(Id. at 21). Further, the Commissioner argues that
the ALJ articulated good cause reasons, which were supported
by substantial evidence, for assigning select portions of Dr.
Mendoza-Fonseca's opinion no significant weight.
(Id. at 18-21).
is tasked with assessing a claimant's RFC and ability to
perform past relevant work. Phillips v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004). The RFC "is an
assessment, based upon all of the relevant evidence, of a
claimant's remaining ability to do work despite his
impairments." Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440. In
determining a claimant's RFC, the ALJ must consider all
relevant evidence, including the medical opinions of
treating, examining and non-examining medical sources, as
well as the opinions of other sources. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(a)(3); see also Rosario v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec, 49OF. App'x 192, 194(11th Cir.
must consider a number of factors in determining how much
weight to give each medical opinion, including: 1) whether
the physician has examined the claimant; 2) the length,
nature, and extent of the physician's relationship with
the claimant; 3) the medical evidence and explanation
supporting the physician's opinion; 4) how consistent the
physician's opinion is with the record as a whole; and 5)
the physician's specialization. 20 C.F.R. §
treating physician's opinion must be given controlling
weight, unless good cause is shown to the contrary. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(c)(2) (giving controlling weight to the
treating physician's opinion unless it is inconsistent
with other substantial evidence); see also Winschel,
631 F.3d at 1179. There is good cause to assign a treating
physician's opinion less than controlling weight where:
1) the treating physician's opinion is not bolstered by
the evidence; 2) the evidence supports a contrary finding; or