United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division
ANDREA HOLLAND on behalf of A. W., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, DENYING
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND GRANTING
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
FEDERICO A. MORENO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER was referred to the Honorable Lauren F. Louis, United
States Magistrate Judge, for a Report and Recommendation on
the Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. 29) and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. 32).
Magistrate Judge Louis filed a Report and Recommendation
(D.E. 34) after reviewing the agency's decision and the
evidentiary record. This Court has now examined the entire
record and made a de novo review of the issues
raised by the Plaintiffs Objections (D.E. 35) to the Report
and Recommendation. Being otherwise fully advised in the
premises, it is
that the Report and Recommendation is
AFFIRMED and ADOPTED.
reviewing the denial of Social Security disability benefits,
this Court must review the agency's decision and
determine "whether its conclusion, as a whole, was
supported by substantial evidence in the record."
Washington v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 906 F.3d 1353,
1358 (11th Cir. 2018) (quoting Dyer v. Bamhart, 395
F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005)). Federal law establishes
that "[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla.
It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Washington, 906 F.3d at 1358 (quoting Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). This Court must
also review de novo whether the agency's
decision was based on a proper view of the law. Id.
(quoting Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1275
(11th Cir. 2003)).
case originates from an Administrative Law Judge's
determination that the Claimant, the Plaintiffs daughter-who
is a minor that suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder-had not been disabled under the Social Security Act
since the time the Plaintiff filed the application for
benefits. Seeking judicial review of this decision in federal
court, the Plaintiff argued the Administrative Law
Judge's decision was not supported by substantial
evidence in the record, and that the decision rested, in
part, on an incorrect legal standard.
thoroughly reviewing the Administrative Law Judge's
decision and the evidentiary record, Magistrate Judge Louis
determined that the Administrative Law Judge's decision
was supported by substantial evidence. Magistrate Judge Louis
also rejected the Plaintiffs "incorrect legal
standard" argument because even though the
Administrative Law Judge erroneously cited Listing 112.14,
which applied to developmental disorders in infants and
toddlers-instead of citing Listing 112.11, which applied to
neurodevelopmental disorders for children between ages 3 and
18-the Administrative Law Judge analyzed the Claimant's
disability "by considering all of the elements of
Listing 112.11" and determined the Claimant's
impairment "did not meet or functionally equal that
listing." (D.E. 34 at 14.) Magistrate Judge Louis thus
concluded that to the extent the Administrative Law Judge
committed error, it was harmless error. Id.
de novo review of the record, the Court agrees with
Magistrate Judge Louis's well-reasoned legal analysis
following her exhaustive review of the evidentiary record.
Accordingly, the Court finds that the agency's denial of
Social Security benefits is supported by substantial evidence
in the record, and to the extent there was a partial legal
standard error, such error was clearly harmless. The
Objections to the Report and Recommendation repeat,
essentially verbatim, the arguments advanced in the
Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment. (Compare
D.E. 29, with D.E. 35.) So having agreed with the
Report and Recommendation, the Court writes separately to
address the only new argument raised in the Objections.
cites the Eleventh Circuit's recent decision in
Castro v. Acting Comm'r o/Soc. Sec, 783
Fed.Appx. 948 (11th Cir. 2019) to argue that the
Administrative Law Judge's decision was erroneous because
"the treating psychiatric opinions are consistent with
the findings as documented in the treatment notes, despite
the ALJ's assertion they are not, and they are consistent
with the substantial evidence of the record." (D.E. 35
at 7.) In Castro, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the
district court's order affirming the denial of benefits
on grounds that substantial evidence did not support the
Administrative Law Judge's conclusion that the treating
psychiatrist's assessment opinions were inconsistent with
his treatment notes. There, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that
no reasonable person would accept the conclusion that the
observations in the treatment notes contradicted the
psychiatrist's assessment opinions because the treatment
notes reflected observations during treatments in a medical
environment, while the assessment opinions related to
day-to-day activities in a regular work setting.
Castro, 783 Fed.Appx. at 956.
in Castro, the Administrative Law Judge here looked
to "the opinion evidence of record" and found that
"no treating or examining source provided a statement
regarding the claimant's functional capacity." (D.E.
21 at 25.) As Magistrate Judge Louis noted in the Report and
Recommendation, the Plaintiffs summary judgment motion failed
to specifically attack this factual finding. (See
D.E. 34 at 10 (noting the Plaintiff "did not identify
any opinion that she contends the ALJ failed to
consider," but rather "cited generally to the
medical records from each doctor noting Claimant's
symptoms"). Indeed, the almost verbatim Objections
likewise fail to identify the specific assessment opinions
that the Administrative Law Judge overlooked. And
furthermore, the Objections also fail to explain how the
ruling in Castro otherwise demonstrates the
Administrative Law Judge's decision was not supported by
event, the Court finds there is substantial evidence in the
record to support the agency's decision. Therefore, the
Plaintiffs Objections are OVERRULED.
these reasons, and the reasons more fully explained in
Magistrate Judge Louis's Report and Recommendation that
the Court now adopts, it is ADJUDGED that
the Report and Recommendation (D.E. 34) is
AFFIRMED and ADOPTED.
Consequently, the Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment
(D.E. 29) ...