United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
CYNTHIA A. WHITMORE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
A. PIZZO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an appeal of the administrative denial of supplemental
security income benefits (SSI), disability insurance benefits
(DIB), and period of disability benefits. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). In her appeal,
Plaintiff asserts the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred by
failing to find her fibromyalgia a severe impairment; by
failing to find that she has work limitations caused by her
mental problems; and by failing to find her dental problems a
severe impairment. After considering Plaintiff's
arguments, Defendant's response, and the administrative
record, I find the ALJ applied the proper standards and her
decision is supported by substantial evidence. I affirm the
born on July 24, 1965, was 55 years old at the time of the
November 8, 2017 administrative hearing. She completed two
years of college, and has work experience as an office helper
and a general office clerk (R. 40-42). She stopped working in
March 2013 because it became too difficult both mentally and
physically for her to perform the duties of her job (R. 43).
In her application, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning
March 1, 2013, due to bipolar, depression, fibromyalgia, neck
problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, and severe anxiety (R.
118). Her date late insured (DLI) is December 31, 2018. After
a hearing, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments
of spine disorder, dysfunction of major joint knee and right
shoulder, and suprapatellar bursitis of the right knee (R.
13). But, aided by the testimony of a vocational expert (VE),
the ALJ determined Plaintiff is not disabled as she has the
RFC to perform a reduced range of light work, including her
past relevant work as an office helper and general clerk (R.
19). Plaintiff appealed the decision, and the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review (R. 1). Plaintiff,
who has exhausted her administrative remedies, filed this
Standard of Review
entitled to DIB and/or SSI, a claimant must be unable to
engage “in any substantial gainful activity by reason
of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A
“‘physical or mental impairment' is an
impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or
psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques.” See 42 U.S.C. §§
Social Security Administration, to regularize the
adjudicative process, promulgated detailed regulations that
are currently in effect. These regulations establish a
“sequential evaluation process” to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. If an individual is found
disabled at any point in the sequential review, further
inquiry is unnecessary. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Under this process, the
Commissioner must determine, in sequence, the following: (1)
whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment(s) (i.e., one that significantly limits
her ability to perform work-related functions); (3) whether
the severe impairment meets or equals the medical criteria of
Appendix 1, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P; (4) considering
the Commissioner's determination of claimant's RFC,
whether the claimant can perform her past relevant work; and
(5) if the claimant cannot perform the tasks required of her
prior work, the ALJ must decide if the claimant can do other
work in the national economy in view of her RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). A claimant is entitled to
benefits only if unable to perform other work. See Bowen
v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 142 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(f), (g); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f), (g).
reviewing the ALJ's findings, this Court must ask if
substantial evidence supports those findings. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971). The ALJ's factual findings are
conclusive if “substantial evidence consisting of
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion exists.” Keeton v.
Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066
(11th Cir. 1994) (citation and quotations omitted). The Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment
for that of the ALJ even if it finds the evidence
preponderates against the ALJ's decision. See
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir.
1983). The Commissioner's “failure to apply the
correct law or to provide the reviewing court with sufficient
reasoning for determining the proper legal analysis has been
conducted mandates reversal.” Keeton, 21 F.3d
at 1066 (citations omitted).
main, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred at step two by failing
to find that her fibromyalgia is a severe impairment. Step
two is a threshold inquiry. The Eleventh Circuit has held
that “a claimant's impairment can be considered as
not severe only if it is a slight abnormality which has such
a minimal effect on the individual that it would not be
expected to interfere with the individual's ability to
work, irrespective of age, education or work
experience.” McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026,
1031 (11th Cir. 1986); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§404.1521(a), 416.921(a) (“An impairment or
combination of impairments is not severe if it does not
significantly limit your physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities.”). But, Plaintiff's emphasis
on step two is misguided. Step two requires only that the ALJ
determine whether Plaintiff suffers from at least one severe
impairment. See Jamison v. Bowen, 814 F.2d 585, 588
(11th Cir. 1987) (holding “the finding of any severe
impairment . . . whether or not it results from a single
severe impairment or a combination of impairments that
together qualify as severe” is enough to satisfy step
two). “Nothing requires that the ALJ must identify, at
step two, all of the impairments that should be considered
severe.” Heatly v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
382 Fed. App'x 823, 825 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing
Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir.
the ALJ found three severe impairments, spine disorder;
dysfunction of major joint knee and right shoulder; and
suprapatellar bursitis of the right knee (R. 13), satisfying
the step two inquiry. In reaching this finding, the ALJ
considered Plaintiff's other alleged impairments. The ALJ
The claimant testified that she suffered from fibromyalgia.
Social Security Ruling 12-2p provides fibromyalgia may be
found to be a medically determinable impairment if there is
documented evidence consistent with a diagnosis of
fibromyalgia. Generally, the claimant must meet one of two
tests, both of which include widespread pain in all quadrants
of the body and axial skeletal pain that persisted for at
least three months and exclusion of other possible diagnosis.
In the instant case, there is no documented evidence that
supports fibromyalgia as a medically determinable impairment
(see i.e. Exhibit 15F). Therefore, I find fibromyalgia is not
established as a medically determinable impairment.
(R. 14). After her step two discussion, the ALJ progressed to
the remainder of the five-step disability determination
process as required. At step three she considered
Plaintiff's fibromyalgia as required (R. 16-17). Hence, I
cannot conclude the ALJ erred at step two by ...