Fischer v. Colvin (N.D. Fla. Oct. 4, 2016) (Magistrate Judge Gary R. Jones)

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Included: Plaintiff’s Brief, Plaintiff’s Reply Brief, Report and Recommendation, and Order

Issues Briefed:

  1. 1)  The ALJ erred by failing to properly evaluate the medical opinion evidence of record pertaining to Mr. Fischer’s mental residual functional capacity.

  2. 2)  The ALJ also erred by failing to properly evaluate Mr. Fischer’s subjective complaints and credibility.

  3. 3)  The ALJ did not properly determine that Mr. Fischer can perform his past work as a banquet waiter and did not, through his conclusory alternative finding, carry the Commissioner’s burden at step five of the sequential evaluation process.

In Fischer, the court first concluded that the ALJ “erred in weighing and evaluating Dr. Buhrmann’s treating physician opinion regarding the functional limitations imposed by Plaintiff’s anxiety,depression,andADHD.”R&Rat19. “AlthoughtheALJstatedthathewasnotgivingthe opinion ‘controlling weight,’ he wholly failed to articulate ‘with particularity the weight he gave’ the opinion ‘and the reasons therefor.’” Id. (quoting Lucas v. Sullivan, 918 F.2d 1567, 1574 (11th Cir. 1986)).

The court next discussed the regulatory factors set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527, and stated that the “record in this case does not reflect that the ALJ considered each of these factors, except for his conclusional statement that the opinion was not ‘well-supported’ and was inconsistent with ‘other substantial evidence.’” Id. at 20. The court concluded that the:

ALJ’s decision does not demonstrate ‘good cause’ for rejecting Dr. Buhrmann’s opinion because the ALJ’s decision does not state with particularity the weight afforded to the opinion and does not adequately account for the factors that must be considered in determining the proper weight afforded to his opinion. Remand is necessary so that the ALJ can properly account for the relevant factors and adequately explain the basis for evaluating the treating physician’s functional assessment.

Id. at 21.

Second, the court determined that the ALJ failed to properly address the opinions of the State agency medical consultants, upon whose opinion the ALJ stated he was according “significant weight.” Id. at 21. Both consultants opined that plaintiff had moderate limitations in social functioning. Id. at 21-22. Despite according “significant weight” to these opinions, the ALJ provided “no explanation as to why such weight did not merit the inclusion of any functional limitations in the RFC,” warranting remand “so that the ALJ can adequately explain the basis for rejecting these opinions in formulating Plaintiff’s RFC.” Id. at 22-23.

Regarding credibility, the court noted that in discrediting the claimant’s testimony, “[i]t appears that the ALJ relied on some statements in Plaintiff’s Function Report without adequately explaining why his other statements, which arguably support his hearing testimony, should be rejected.” Id. at 25. Moreover, “Dr. Buhrmann’s opinion regarding Plaintiff’s functional limitations (which must be revisited on remand) arguably supports Plaintiff’s subjective complaints.” Id. Thus, based on “this record, the Court cannot find that the ALJ’s reasons for discrediting Plaintiff’s subjective complaints are adequately articulated or supported by substantial evidence.” Id.