United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
Stormy Williams, commenced this action on June 18, 2018,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review
of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner, affirming
the decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), and thereby denying her claim for
supplemental security income benefits.
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of review is limited
to determining whether there is substantial evidence in the
record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were
applied. See Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th
Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253
(11th Cir. 1983).
contends that the Commissioner's decision is neither
supported by substantial evidence nor in accordance with
applicable legal standards. Specifically, claimant asserts
that: (1) she met the requirements of Listings 12.04, 12.05,
and 12.06; (2) the ALJ improperly considered the medical
opinions in the record; and (3) the ALJ's residual
functional capacity finding was not supported by substantial
evidence. Upon review of the record, the court concludes that
these contentions are without merit, and the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
asserts that she meets the requirements of Listing 12.04,
governing depressive, bipolar, and related disorders; Listing
12.05, governing intellectual disorders; and Listing 12.06,
governing anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Each of
those Listings requires proof of extreme limitation of one,
or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental
a. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1);
b. Interact with others (see 12.00E2); or
c. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3); or
d. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4); and
20 C.F.R. § Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, §§
12.04B, 12.05B.2, 12.06B.
found no more than moderate limitations in any of those
functional areas, saying that:
In understanding, remembering, or applying information, the
claimant has mild limitation. In interacting with others, the
claimant has moderate limitation. With regard to
concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace, the claimant
has moderate limitation[s]. As for adapting or managing
oneself, the claimant has no limitation. The claimant cares
for her four children. She gets them up and ready for school.
She bathes and feeds her children. She cares for the younger
ones not in school. She has a boyfriend with whom she spends
time. She is independent with daily activities and personal
care. She cleans and does laundry. She prepares meals for
her[self] and her children. She cleans and does laundry. She
drives and shops. She watches television with no problems.
She is social with family. She alleged concentration and
memory problems, yet she is able to run a household, watch
television with no problems, and follow spoken instructions.
In addition, she was able to testify at the hearing with no
Tr. 15 (alterations supplied). See also Id.
(“[T]here is no evidence whatsoever of significant
deficits in adaptive functioning manifested by extreme
limitation of one, or marked limitation of two areas of
mental functioning.”) (alteration supplied).
points to the following evidence to contest the ALJ's
findings: (1) consultative examiner Dr. David Wilson's
statements that claimant's “ability to withstand
the pressures of day to day occupational functioning is
highly impaired, ” and she “is not capable of
managing benefits”; (2) claimant's hearing testimony
that she had to take the driver's license examination
multiple times, and that she couldn't sit still, pay
attention, or comprehend things in school; (3) the diagnoses
of anxiety disorder in claimant's medical
record; (4) consultative examiner Dr. Jack
Bentley's assessment; and (5) claimant's testimony of
weekly panic attacks.
did not fully credit the consultative examiners'
opinions, and her decision not to do so will be discussed in
the following section. Claimant's panic attacks would
have been relevant to the “A” requirements of
Listing 12.06,  but they are not relevant to the
“B” requirements. Finally, a diagnosis of anxiety
disorder, subjective testimony about some unspecified trouble
paying attention in school, and failing a driver's
license examination do not equate to marked or extreme
limitations in the functional areas described in the B
claimant has not established the B criteria of Listings
12.04, 12.05, and 12.06, the ALJ did not err in failing to
find her disabled under those Listings.
asserts that the ALJ improperly considered the opinions of
the treating and examining physicians. The opinion of a
treating physician “must be given substantial or
considerable weight unless ‘good cause' is shown to
the contrary.” Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d
1232, 1240-41 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted).
Good cause exists when “(1) [the] treating
physician's opinion was not bolstered by the evidence;
(2) [the] evidence supported a contrary finding; or (3) [the]
treating physician's opinion was conclusory or
inconsistent with the doctor's own medical
records.” Id. (alterations supplied).
Additionally, the ALJ is not required to accept a conclusory
statement from a medical source, even a treating source, that
a claimant is unable to work, because the decision on that
issue is not a medical question, but is a decision
“reserved to the Commissioner.” 20 C.F.R. §
Security regulations also provide that, when considering the
weight to be given any medical opinion (regardless
of whether it is from a treating or non-treating physician),
the Commissioner should evaluate: the extent of the examining
or treating relationship between the doctor and patient;
whether the doctor's opinion can be supported by medical
signs and laboratory findings; whether the opinion is
consistent with the record as a whole; the doctor's
specialization; and other factors. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.927(c). See also Wheeler v. Heckler, 784
F.2d 1073, 1075 (11th Cir. 1986) (“The weight afforded
a physician's conclusory statements depends upon the
extent to which they are supported by clinical or laboratory
findings and are consistent with other evidence as to
Douglas Ginas, claimant's treating physician, completed a
“Physical Capacities Form” on April 17, 2017. He
stated that claimant could sit for one hour at a time and
stand for thirty minutes at a time. She would need to lie
down with her legs propped up three hours in an eight-hour
day. She would be off-task fifty percent of an eight-hour
work day. During a thirty-day period, she would fail to
report to work seven or eight days as a result of her medical
conditions. Her limitations were not affected by drug or
alcohol use. Instead, they were a result of degenerative disc
disease in her spine, residuals from a motor vehicle
accident, pain syndrome, anxiety syndrome, and radiculopathy.
Claimant would experience sedation and constipation as a
result of her medications.
did not specifically state the weight she afforded to Dr.
Ginas's opinions, but it is evident that she did not
afford them much weight. She stated:
The claimant's doctor at Rapid Care, Douglas Ginas, M.D.,
completed a Physical Capacities Form on April 17, 2017[, ]
and opined the claimant was not capable of performing even
sedentary work. However, there is no evidentiary support for
these restrictions. There is no objective evidence, even in
her pain management records. In fact, recent treatment notes
document her pain is well-controlled with her current
medication regimen. The undersigned attempted to supplement
the record to get objective evidence, as the only
consultations were mental status evaluations, but the
claimant did not report [to] the CE as requested.
Tr. 20 (alterations supplied).
than stating general principles about the deference to be
afforded treating physician opinions, claimant does not make
any argument about why the ALJ's consideration of Dr.
Ginas's assessment was improper. The court finds that the
ALJ articulated good cause for rejecting the assessment, and
her decision was supported by substantial evidence. On April
14, 2017, just three days before Dr. Ginas completed the
Physical Capacities Form, claimant reported to Dr. Ginas
that, with medication, her pain was at a level 4 of 10, and
she could perform her daily living activities. Claimant either
made the same report, or stated that her pain level was 5 or
6 on medication, on May 17,  June 23,  July 21,
August 17,  September 25, and October 10,
2017. In addition, Dr. Ginas's opinion was
inconsistent with claimant's daily activities, including
caring for her four children, preparing meals, ...