United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
10, 2016, the claimant, Dale Gerald Parrott, filed a Title II
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning June 17,
2014. The Commissioner denied the application on September 2,
2016. The claimant then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge. On January 30, 2018, the ALJ held a
decision dated February 28, 2018, the ALJ found that the
claimant was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act and was thus ineligible for social security disability
benefits. The Appeals Council rejected a subsequent request
for review, so the ALJ’s decision became the
Commissioner’s final decision. The claimant has
exhausted his administrative remedies, and the court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1631(c)(3). For the reasons stated below, the court will
affirm the Commissioner’s decision.
claimant raises two issues on appeal:
1. Whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
decision that the claimant could perform work in the economy
when the ALJ relied on vocational expert testimony without
allowing the claimant to fully cross-examine that testimony
and failed to address post-hearing rebuttal evidence and
objections to that testimony; and
2. Whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
determination of the claimant’s residual functional
capacity when the ALJ assigned only partial weight to a
physician’s opinion and did not address the
claimant’s work history and military service.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner’s decision is
limited. The court must find the Commissioner’s
decision conclusive 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).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance. It is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would 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 a claimant
meets a 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 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 if
substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [ALJ]’s factual
findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. And the
court must not only look to those parts of the record that
support the ALJ’s decision, but also must take account
of evidence that detracts from the evidence relied on by the
ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
disability benefits when the person is 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 . . . .” To determine whether a
claimant meets the § 423(d)(1)(A) criteria, the
Commissioner employs a five-step, sequential evaluation
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person’s impairment severe?
(3) Does the person’s impairment meet or equal one of
the specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpart P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads
either to the next question, or, on step three and five, to a
finding of disability. A negative answer to any question,
other than step three, leads to a determination of “not
disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)–(f).
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
Right to Cross-Examination
determining whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ must
“develop a full and fair record; i.e., the
record must disclose . . . a full and fair hearing.”
Kelley v. Heckler, 761 F.2d 1538, 1540 (11th Cir.
1985). The claimant’s right to a full and fair hearing
includes his due process rights to an “opportunity to
be heard ‘at a meaningful time and in a meaningful
manner’” and to meaningfully cross-examine
witnesses. Martz v. Comm’r, Soc. Sec. Admin.,
649 Fed.Appx. 948, 962 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Mathews
v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976)).
right to cross-examination at an ALJ hearing has a limit
because “[t]he determination of whether
cross-examination is warranted appears to be within the
discretion of the ALJ.” Martz, 649 Fed.Appx.
at 962 (citing Demenech v. Sec’y of Dep’t of
HHS, 913 F.2d 882, 884 (11th Cir. 1990)) (according to
Martz, “assuming, without deciding, that 
the ALJ has the discretion to determine whether
cross-examination is warranted”). And if an ALJ
restricts the claimant’s cross-examination of a
witness, then the claimant must show that the restriction
prejudiced him before the court finds “that the
claimant’s right to due process has been violated to
such a degree that the case must be remanded.”
Graham, 129 F.3d at 1423.
Rebuttal Evidence After the ALJ hearing, a claimant may
object to testimony given at the hearing and submit rebuttal
evidence if the claimant’s limitations or
“unusual, unexpected, or unavoidable”
circumstances prevented the claimant from submitting the
evidence before the hearing. 20 C.F.R. § 404.935(b). If
the claimant properly submits post-hearing evidence and the
evidence is relevant to his limitations, the ALJ must
consider it. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).
But the ALJ does not have to specifically address all
post-hearing evidence in his decision. See Dyer, 395
F.3d at 1211 (“[T]here is no rigid requirement that the
ALJ specifically refer to every piece of evidence in his
decision.”); Gassler v. Berryhill, 2019 WL
945972, at *3 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 6, 2019) (“Plaintiff
argues that the ALJ was obligated to inquire into her
[post-hearing] objections . . . [b]ut no such duty exists in
[the Eleventh Circuit].”).
the Claimant’s RFC
claimant’s residual functional capacity is “the
most [he] can still do despite [his] limitations.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). To determine the
claimant’s RFC, the ALJ must consider “all the
relevant evidence in [the] case record.” Id.
Though the ALJ must consider all the relevant
evidence, the ALJ does not have to “specifically
refer to every piece of evidence in his
decision, so long as the ALJ’s decision . . . is not a
broad rejection which is ‘not enough to enable [the
reviewing court] to conclude that [the ALJ] considered [the
claimant’s] medical condition as a whole.’”
Dyer, 395 F.3d at 1211 (emphasis added) (quoting
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1558 (11th Cir.
determining the claimant’s RFC based on medical
opinions, “the ALJ [is] required to state with
particularity the weight he gave the different medical
opinions and the reasons therefor.” Sharfarz v.
Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing
MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053 (11th Cir.
1986)). The ALJ cannot focus only on medical evidence that
supports his decision and disregard other contrary evidence.
McCruter v. Bowen, 791 F.2d 1544, 1548 (11th Cir.
1986). But “the ALJ may reject any medical opinion if
the evidence supports a contrary finding.”
Sharfarz, 825 F.2d at 280 (citing Sryock v.
Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 835 (11th Cir. 1985)).
time of the ALJ’s decision, the claimant was fifty-two
years old. (R. 18). He has two master’s degrees and
past relevant work experience as an equipment repairer/radar
specialist and a senior analyst/trainer specialist. The
claimant alleges disability based on anxiety disorder,
affective disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, sleep apnea,
osteoarthritis in the neck, knees and lumbar region, and bone
spurs in his elbows and feet. The court will begin its
discussion of the facts with the claimant’s physical
impairments and then address the claimant’s mental
27, 2009, the claimant sought treatment from Dr. Jack W.
Moore for an injury to his right shoulder suffered from a
four-wheeler accident. (R. 378, 381-82). Dr. Moore diagnosed
the claimant with a fractured clavicle and performed surgery
to repair the fracture.
August 14, 2013, the claimant sought treatment from Dr.
Robert Hash II at SportsMED Orthopedic Surgery & Spine
Center for neck, back, and bilateral arm pain. Dr. Hash
examined the claimant and ordered lumbar and cervical
MRI’s that revealed diffuse cervical spondylosis
without spinal cord compression, severe compression of the
C7, C6, and C5 nerve roots, and a central disc herniation at
¶ 4-5. (R. 375-80).
August 17, 2015, the claimant’s primary care physician,
Dr. Geetha Scariya, informed the claimant that he had high
cholesterol and high blood pressure, and advised him of the
associated health risks. (R. 480). Dr. Scariya prescribed
Lisonopril and Lipitor for the claimant. The claimant
returned to see Dr. Scariya the following month, and Dr.