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Guillen v. Saul

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

January 13, 2020

CHRISTINE A. GUILLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          THOMAS G. WILSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The plaintiff in this case seeks judicial review of the denial of her claims for Social Security disability benefits and supplemental security income payments.[2] Because the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is supported by substantial evidence and contains no reversible error, the decision will be affirmed.

         I.

         The plaintiff, who was thirty-six years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 57) and who has some college education (Tr. 368), has worked primarily as a radiology technician (Tr. 371). She filed claims for Social Security disability benefits and supplemental security income payments, alleging that she became disabled due to depression, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, severe pain in joints of ankles and feet, neuropathy, heart disease and asthma (Tr. 285). The claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration.

         The plaintiff, at her request, received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge. The law judge found that the plaintiff had severe impairments of "metatarsalgia; complex regional pain syndrome; causalgia; sacroiliac/sacrum dysfunction; bursitis; sinusitis; asthma; rhinitis; and renal cyst" (Tr. 13). The law judge concluded that with those impairments the plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform light work with the following exceptions (Tr. 16):

[T]he claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally; 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for 2 hours in an 8 hour day; and sit for 6, hours in an 8 hour day. She requires a sit stand option with an alternating interval of 1-2 hours. She can constantly push and/or pull with the upper extremities, reach above shoulder level with both arms, reach waist to chest with both arms, handle with both hands, finger with both hands, and feel. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, and kneel. She must avoid climbing ladders and scaffolds, crouching, and crawling. She must avoid working around high, exposed places. She can tolerate frequent exposure to moving, mechanical parts; humidity and wetness; pulmonary irritants; extreme cold; extreme heat; and vibrations. She is able to understand, remember, and carry out simple detailed instructions.

         The law judge determined that with those limitations the plaintiff could not perform past relevant work (Tr. 20). However, based upon evidence from a vocational expert, the law judge found that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the plaintiff could perform, such as order clerk food and beverage, document preparer, and charge account clerk (Tr. 21-22). Accordingly, on February 16, 2018, the law judge decided that the plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 22).

         The plaintiff sought review of the law judge's decision and submitted additional evidence with that request That evidence was from April 26-28, 2018; May 9-31, 2018; and June 25-July 5, 2018 (Tr. 2). The Appeals Council, noting that the law judge decided the case through February 16, 2018, stated, "This additional evidence does not relate to the period at issue" (id.). The Appeals Council added that the evidence "does not affect the decision about whether you were disabled beginning on or before February 16, 2018" (id.). As a consequence, the law judge's "decision is the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security" in the plaintiff s case (Tr. 1).

         II.

         In order to be entitled to Social Security disability benefits and supplemental security income, a claimant must be unable "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). A "physical or mental impairment," under the terms of the Act, is one "that 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), 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         A determination by the Commissioner that a claimant is not disabled must be upheld if it is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971), quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). Under the substantial evidence test, "findings of fact made by administrative agencies ... may be reversed ... only when the record compels a reversal; the mere fact that the record may support a contrary conclusion is not enough to justify a reversal of the administrative findings." Adefemi v. Ashcroft, 386 F.3d 1022, 1027 (11th Cir. 2004) (en banc).

         It is, moreover, the function of the Commissioner, and not the courts, to resolve conflicts in the evidence and to assess the credibility of the witnesses. Grant v. Richardson, 445 F.2d 656 (5th Cir. 1971). Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Commissioner to draw inferences from the evidence, and those inferences are not to be overturned if they are supported by substantial evidence. Celebrezze v. O'Brient 323 F.2d 989, 990 (5th Cir. 1963).

         Therefore, in determining whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the court is not to reweigh the evidence, but is limited to determining whether the record as a whole contains sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable mind to conclude that the claimant is not disabled. However, the court, in its review, must satisfy itself that the proper legal ...


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