United States District Court, N.D. Alabama
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
September 12, 2013, the claimant, Martha Nell King, filed a
Title II application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits, and a Title XVI application
for supplemental security income. The claimant alleged
disability commencing on August 12, 2013 because of
degenerative disc disease, seizures, and pain. The
Commissioner denied the claim on January 15, 2014. The
claimant filed a timely request for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge, and the ALJ held a hearing on June
11, 2015. (R. 26-46, 47, 48, 57, 113-16, 119-25).
decision dated October 26, 2015, the ALJ found that the
claimant was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act and was, therefore, ineligible for social security
benefits. On December 12, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
the claimant's request for review. Consequently, the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. The
claimant has exhausted her administrative remedies, and this
court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons stated below, this
court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-5,
claimant presents the following issues for review:
1. whether the ALJ properly assessed the claimant's
subjective complaints; and
2. whether the ALJ accorded proper weight to the opinions of
the claimant's treating physician, Dr. Okor.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard of reviewing the Commissioner's decision is
limited. This court must affirm the ALJ's decision if he
applied the correct legal standards and if substantial
evidence supports his factual conclusions. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d
1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Bowen, 826
F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
. . . presumption of validity attaches to the
[Commissioner's] legal conclusions, including
determination of the proper standards to be applied in
evaluating claims.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999.
This court does not review the Commissioner's factual
determinations de novo. The court will affirm those
factual determinations that are supported by substantial
evidence. “Substantial evidence” is “more
than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant's residual functional capacity, and the
application of vocational factors “are not medical
opinions, . . . but are, instead, opinions on issues reserved
to the Commissioner because they are administrative findings
that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the
determination or decision of disability.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(d). Whether the claimant
meets the listing and is qualified for Social Security
disability benefits is a question reserved for the ALJ, and
the court “may not decide facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, even if the court were to
disagree with the ALJ about the significance of certain
facts, the court has no power to reverse that finding as long
as substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner]'s
factual finding.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the decision of the ALJ, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of the
evidence that detracts from the evidence relied on by the
ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th
evaluating pain and other subjective complaints, the
Commissioner must consider whether the claimant demonstrated
an underlying medical condition, and either (1)
objective medical evidence that confirms the severity of the
alleged pain arising from the condition or (2) that
the objectively determined medical condition is of such a
severity that it can reasonably be expected to give rise to
the alleged pain. Holt v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1221,
1223 (11th Cir. 1991). Once the claimant establishes an
impairment, the ALJ must consider all evidence about the
intensity, persistence, and functionally limiting effects of
pain or other symptoms in deciding the issue of disability.
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1561 (11th Cir.
1995). In addition to objective medical evidence, the ALJ
will consider daily activities; the location, duration,
frequency, and intensity of the claimant's pain or other
symptoms; precipitating and aggravating factors; medication,
treatments, and other measures used to alleviate pain or
other symptoms; and functional limitations and restrictions
caused by pain or other symptoms. See 20 C.F.R.
ALJ decides to discredit the claimant's testimony as to
her pain, he must articulate explicit and adequate reasons
for that decision. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1561-62. A
reviewing court will not disturb a clearly articulated
credibility finding with supporting substantial evidence in
the record. Id. at 1562.
considering medical opinions, the ALJ must state with
particularity the weight he gave different medical opinions
and the reasons, and the failure to do so is reversible
error. Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279 (11th
Cir. 1987); see also MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d
1050, 1053 (11th Cir. 1986). The ALJ must give the testimony
of a treating physician substantial or considerable weight
unless “good cause” is shown to the contrary.
Crawford v. Comm'r, 363 F.3d 1155, 1159 (11th
Cir. 2004). The Commissioner may reject any medical opinion
if the evidence supports a contrary finding. Sryock v.
Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 835 (11th Cir. 1985). If the ALJ
articulates specific reasons for failing to give the opinion
of a treating physician controlling weight and substantial
evidence supports those reasons, the ALJ does not commit
reversible error. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208,
1212 (11th Cir. 2005).
claimant was forty-nine years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision. The claimant has a high school education
and has past work as a driver supervisor, dispatcher, and
cashier. The claimant alleges disability beginning on August
12, 2013, based on degenerative disc disease, seizures, and
pain. (R. 21, 39-40, 48, 113, 153).
claimant began experiencing neck, right shoulder, and right
arm pain in September 2012. In October, she received a
cervical epidural injection, which provided relief for four
months. The pain returned at the end of January 2013, and the
claimant received another epidural injection in February,
which provided relief for two weeks. A cervical MRI on May
30, 2013, demonstrated “spondylotic changes at ¶
4-5 and C5-6 characterized by disc bulges and disc osteophyte
complexes that lead to moderate bilateral C4-5 and severe
right C5-6 neural foraminal stenosis.” On June 10,
2013, Dr. Mamerhi Okor commented that the claimant was in
significant distress and complained of severe pain in her
neck, right shoulder, and right arm; numbness in all the
fingers of her right hand; and constant headaches and jaw
pain. Dr. Okor also stated, “While aspects of her
clinical presentation are consistent with a right C6
radiculitis, her ...