Ponder v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge R David Proctor on 4/24/13. (ASL)
2013 Apr-24 PM 03:52
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CARL EUGENE PONDER,
Commissioner of Social Security
Case No.: 1:12-cv-00765-RDP
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Plaintiff Carl Eugene Ponder (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and
1613(c)(3) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review of the decision of the
Commissioner or Social Security1 (“Commissioner”) denying his applications for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and supplemental security income
benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c). For the reasons outline below,
the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
On February 26, 2009, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB under Title II of the Act and for
SSI under Title XVI of the Act. [R. 9, 163-166, 186-197]. In both applications, Plaintiff alleged a
disability onset date of October 15, 2007. [R. 9]. Plaintiff’s DIB application was originally denied
on July 6, 2009. [R. 67]. Plaintiff’s SSI application was originally denied on July 16, 2009. [R. 72].
Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held on
March 25, 2011. [R. 23-65]. In his May 16, 2011 decision, the ALJ denied disability benefits
On February 14, 2013, Carolyn Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.
concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled under Sections 216(i), 223(d), or 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act.
[R. 22]. After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision, that
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, and therefore a proper subject of this
court’s review. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 41 years old and had completed eighth grade. [R. 23,
55, 163]. Plaintiff last worked in October 2007 when he was terminated from FabArc Steel for his
involvement in a crane accident. [R. 30]. Plaintiff testified that, even if he had not been involved
in the accident, he doubted he would still be working due to gout in his feet and legs. [R. 30].
Plaintiff worked for Buford’s Tree Service in 2009 until he was terminated because he “was too
slow.” [R. 32]. After further questioning from the ALJ, Plaintiff remembered he was actually fired
for getting a truck stuck. [R. 32]. Plaintiff then claimed that he was probably fired because he had
a flare of gout on the road. [R. 33].
Regarding his physical limitations, Plaintiff stated that he has gout flare ups every two to
three weeks. [R. 31]. Sometimes he has difficulty walking. [R. 31]. Plaintiff also discussed his
bipolar disorder and claimed that sometimes he will stay awake for three to four days at a time and
then sleep for anywhere from eighteen (18) hours to two days. [R. 40].
Plaintiff’s wife also appeared at the hearing and testified as a witness on his behalf. She
stated that Plaintiff does not have a “normal” day. [R. 53]. Plaintiff’s wife claimed that his mood
is affected by how much sleep he receives the night before. [R. 53]. According to Plaintiff’s wife,
some days Plaintiff roams the house, watches television, and walks the dog. [R. 53]. Plaintiff’s wife
testified that Plaintiff appears distracted during the day and cannot function properly. [R. 54].
Plaintiff’s wife testified that Plaintiff’s bipolar medication affects his gout and causes flare ups. [R.
33]. Plaintiff’s wife also stated that Plaintiff is dyslexic and cannot read. [R. 39]. Plaintiff stated
that he cannot write a check and cannot read mail. [R. 55].
The ALJ asked Plaintiff why he could not perform a welding job that permitted him to sit
during the work day. [R. 42-43]. In response, Plaintiff stated that he was not aware of any such jobs
in Alabama. [R. 43]. In response to questioning by the ALJ, a vocational expert (“VE”) classified
Plaintiff’s past relevant work as a welder as medium-skilled work and as heavy-skilled. [R. 56]. The
VE classified Plaintiff’s past relevant work as a material handler as heavy-semiskilled and his past
relevant work as a tree surgeon helper as medium-semiskilled. [R. 56]. After listening to the ALJ
review evidence of record demonstrating that Plaintiff was able to mentally calculate various math
and reasoning problems, the VE stated that someone with this ability and dyslexia could perform
Plaintiff’s past relevant work. [R. 558-559].
Plaintiff submitted medical records in support of his disability claim. The evidence of record
regarding Plaintiff’s gout is minimal at best. Discharge instructions from a March 9, 2011 visit to
Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center indicate Plaintiff was diagnosed with gout. [R. 379].
These notes explain what gout is but contain no details about Plaintiff’s complaints or how Plaintiff
was actually affected by the disease. [R. 379]. Because this was the only evidence of record
pertaining to Plaintiff’s gout, the ALJ referred Plaintiff to Dr. Chang-Kon Jin for a disability
determination exam on April 18, 2011. [R. 387-388].
Dr. Jin reviewed Plaintiff’s medical records and considered them in making his findings. [R.
387]. Dr. Jin noted Plaintiff’s history of the following: low back, feet, leg, and knee pain; bipolar
disorder; and dyslexia. [R. 387]. During Dr. Jin’s examination, Plaintiff’s shoulder, elbows, wrists,
hips, knees, and ankles demonstrated no limitation in range of motion. [R. 388]. Plaintiff was able
to walk on his toes and heels. [R. 388]. Plaintiff’s left sole revealed one soft tissue mass lesion. [R.
388]. Plaintiff could squat with assistance fairly well and his “grip power, and pushing and pulling
power” were “okay.” [R. 388]. Dr. Jin diagnosed Plaintiff with lumbago with pain in the legs;
bipolar disorder; and dyslexia. [R. 388]. According to Dr. Jin, Plaintiff’s main problems were
associated with psychotic changes as his lumbago was currently “not a major problem.”
Dr. Jin also completed a medical source statement regarding Plaintiff’s ability to do workrelated physical activities. [R. 389-395]. Dr. Jin opined that Plaintiff could lift and carry up to
twenty (20) pounds frequently. [R. 389]. Dr. Jin also concluded that Plaintiff could sit, stand, or
walk for ten (10) minutes without interruption and that Plaintiff could sit for a total of five (5) hours
in a work day but could only stand for two (2) hours and could only walk for a total of one (1) hour.
[R. 390]. Regarding Plaintiff’s use of his hands, Dr. Jin determined that Plaintiff could frequently
reach overhead and could occasionally handle, finger, feel, and push/pull. [R. 391]. Regarding
Plaintiff’s use of his feet, Dr. Jin concluded that Plaintiff should never operate foot controls. [R.
391]. Regarding postural activities, Dr. Jin opined that Plaintiff could occasionally climb stairs and
ramps and could occasionally balance but should never climb ladders or scaffolds, stoop, kneel,
crouch, or crawl. [R. 392]. Regarding environmental limitations, Dr. Jin determined that Plaintiff
could occasionally operate a motor vehicle and could occasionally be exposed to extreme heat but
should never be exposed to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, humidity and wetness,
dust, odors, fumes, extreme cold, or vibrations. [R. 393].
Plaintiff’s medical records regarding his bipolar disorder are more thorough than those
presented regarding his gout. The earliest records pertaining to Plaintiff’s mental health are from
a November 2004 office visit with Dr. Glenn Archibald, Plaintiff’ treating psychiatrist. These
records and several others from visits before 2007 concern a period of time prior to the alleged
disability onset date. However, by May 2008, Plaintiff was still seeing Dr. Archibald, who noted that
Plaintiff had relapsed after losing his job seven months before. [R. 296]. In August 2008, Plaintiff’s
treatment notes indicate that his progress was “stable.” [R.294]. In December 2008, Dr. Archibald
indicated that Plaintiff was “better” and that his energy and motivation were “good.” [R. 292].
During this visit, Plaintiff received refills for all of his prescription medication. [R. 292]. A May
11, 2009 treatment note indicates that Plaintiff’s progress was “worse” and that Plaintiff’s mood was
depressed. [R. 317]. During this visit Plaintiff told Dr. Archibald he believed he was most recently
fired because he has gout and could not work. [R. 317]. Dr. Archibald also noted that Plaintiff “got
a truck stuck” and that may have led to his firing. [R. 317]. This treatment note also includes the
phrase “Can’t hold a job.” [R. 317].
A final treatment note from January 23, 2011 stated that
Plaintiff had no new problems but indicated that he was not sleeping well at night. [R. 377].
Dr. Archibald completed a Supplemental Questionnaire as to Plaintiff’s RFC and an
Affective Disorders Questionnaire in early August 2009. [R. 341-345]. On the RFC Questionnaire,
Dr. Archibald indicated that Plaintiff had a moderately severe impairment in his ability to relate to
other people, to respond appropriately to co-workers, to perform complex tasks, to perform repetitive
tasks, and to perform varied tasks. [R. 341-342]. Dr. Archibald also noted that Plaintiff had a severe
limitation in his ability to respond to customary work pressures. [R. 341]. Based upon Plaintiff’s
mental condition, Dr. Archibald stated that he did not believe Plaintiff was currently able to return
to gainful employment. [R. 343]. Dr. Archibald also indicated that he did not believe Plaintiff would
be able to return to gainful employment at some future date. [R. 343]. On the Affective Disorder
Questionnaire, Dr. Archibald stated that Plaintiff suffers from depressive syndrome characterized
by sleep disturbance, psychomotor agitation, decreased energy, and difficulty concentrating or
thinking. [R. 344]. Dr. Archibald also indicated that Plaintiff suffers from manic syndrome
characterized by pressure of speech and decreased need for sleep and that Plaintiff suffers from
bipolar syndrome. [R. 344]. Based upon these disorders, Plaintiff had repeated episodes of
decompensation, each of extended duration. [R. 345].
In addition to these treatment notes from Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist, several other
evaluations or reports regarding Plaintiff’s mental condition are included in the record. On June 10,
2009, Mary Arnold, Psy. D., completed an agency consultative psychological examination. [R. 338341]. Dr. Arnold noted that Plaintiff’s demeanor was “amiable and calm” and that his mood was
“broad with congruent affect.” [R. 339]. Dr. Arnold’s examination notes indicate that Plaintiff was
“amused by some interview items” but that he was cooperative. [R. 339]. Plaintiff displayed no
cognitive deficit and was able to perform a series of calculations and recall drills. [R. 339]. Plaintiff
displayed fluid speech, made eye contact and was able to reach goal ideas without tangential or
circumstantial thinking. [R. 339]. Dr. Arnold indicated that without the benefit of formal testing,
she would estimate Plaintiff’s IQ to be in the low average range. [R. 340]. During the examination,
Plaintiff told Dr. Arnold that it takes him “one day to mow two acres” and that he enjoys “piddl[ing]
with tools” and “tear[ing] stuff apart and fix[ing] it.” [R. 340]. Plaintiff was currently repairing a
lawn mower and attempting to repair a pick-up truck. [R. 340]. Dr. Arnold diagnosed Plaintiff with
bipolar disorder, in partial remission; self-reported dyslexia; and gout. [R. 340]. According to Dr.
Arnold, Plaintiff’s current Global Functioning Assessment (“GAF”) score was a 58. [R. 340].
On July 6, 2009, Robert Estock, M.D., completed a Psychiatric Review Technique based
upon Plaintiff’s affective and anxiety-related disorders. [R. 319-332]. More specifically, Dr. Estock
analyzed how Plaintiff’s bi-polar disorder and panic disorder limited his functioning. [R. 322, 324].
Dr. Estock opined that Plaintiff has mild limitations in activities of daily living, moderate limitations
in maintaining social functioning and in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. [R. 329].
Dr. Estock noted that Plaintiff showed no signs of decompensation. [R. 329]. Dr. Estock commented
that Plaintiff’s earnings ruled out an inability to work due to lower IQ. [R. 331].
Also on July 6, 2009, Dr. Estock completed a Mental RFC Assessment. [R. 333-335]. Dr.
Estock concluded that Plaintiff was either moderately limited or not significantly limited in the
following categories: (1) understanding and memory; (2) sustained concentration and persistence;
(3) social interaction; and (4) adaption. [R. 333-334]. Dr. Estock stated that Plaintiff “can
understand, remember, and complete short, simple 1-to-2 step tasks, but not those that are longer or
more detailed. [R. 335]. Dr. Estock further noted that Plaintiff “can follow simple directions in order
to find locations and complete tasks.” [R. 335]. According to Dr. Estock, Plaintiff appears able to
work an 8-hour work day, provided he receives customary breaks. [R. 335]. Dr. Estock also opined
that Plaintiff could tolerate casual, non-intense interaction with the general public and with coworkers and supervisors. [R. 335].
At the behest of Plaintiff’s counsel, Robert A. Storjohann, Ph.D., completed a psychological
evaluation of Plaintiff on August 10, 2009. [R. 363]. Dr. Storjohann administered a variety of tests
and ultimately made the following diagnoses: (1) bipolar disorder; (2) chronic, severe posttraumatic
stress disorder; (3) generalized anxiety disorder; (4) social phobia with panic attacks; (5) reading
disorder; (6) disorder of written expression; (7) borderline intellectual functioning; (8) paranoid
personality disorder; (9) schizoid personality disorder; (10) borderline personality disorder; and (11)
various physical ailments including occasional bouts of gout in feet and legs. [R. 370]. Dr.
Storjohann found that Plaintiff’s current GAF score was 40 and that it had been no higher in the past
year. [R. 370]. According to Dr. Storjohann, Plaintiff’s “prognosis for improvement during the
coming 6 to 12 months [was] considered to be extremely poor given his health problems, his chronic
pain, the chronicity instability, and severity of his psychiatric difficulties, and his intellectual and
academic limitations.” [R. 370]. Based upon his examination, Dr. Storjohann opined that Plaintiff
appeared to have “moderate to marked deficits in his ability to understand, carry out, and remember
instructions in a work setting” and that Plaintiff appeared to have “marked to extreme deficits in his
ability to respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and work pressures in a work setting.”
Disability under the Act is determined under a five-step test. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First,
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Substantial work activity” is work activity that involves doing significant
physical or mental activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a). “Gainful work activity” is work that is done
for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(b). If the ALJ finds that the claimant engages in substantial
gainful activity, then the claimant cannot claim disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Second, the
ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or a
combination of medical impairments that significantly limits the claimant’s ability to perform basic
work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Absent such impairment, the claimant may not
claim disability. Id. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant’s impairment meets or
medically equals the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526. If such criteria are met, the claimant is declared
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).
If the claimant does not fulfill the requirements necessary to be declared disabled under the
third step, the ALJ may still find disability under the next two steps of the analysis. The ALJ must
first determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which refers to the claimant’s
ability to work despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). In the fourth step, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant has the RFC to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant is determined to be capable of performing past relevant work,
then the claimant is deemed not disabled. Id. If the ALJ finds the claimant unable to perform past
relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
In the last part of the analysis, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is able to perform any
other work commensurate with his RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(g). Here, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the ALJ to prove the existence,
in significant numbers, of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can do given her RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 404.1560(c).
The court recognizes that “the ultimate burden of proving disability is on the claimant” and
that the “claimant must establish a prima facie case by demonstrating that he can no longer perform
former employment.” Freeman v. Schweiker, 681 F.2d 727, 729 (11th Cir. 1982) (other citations
omitted). Once a claimant shows that she can no longer perform her past employment, “the burden
then shifts to the [Commissioner] to establish that the claimant can perform other substantial gainful
Here, the ALJ found that Plaintiff engaged in substantial gainful activity from the alleged
onset date of October 15, 2007 through February 27, 2009. [R. 11]. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff
initially alleged he became disabled on October 15, 2007 when he was terminated from FabArc Steel
Supply but that he subsequently worked as a welder and tree trimmer’s assistant in 2008 and early
2009. [R. 11]. According to the ALJ, Plaintiff’s earnings records and work history support a
potential onset date of February 27, 2009, the day Plaintiff was terminated from work as a tree
trimmer’s assistant. [R. 11]. The ALJ then noted that there had been a continuous 12-month period
during which Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity; therefore, the remainder of the
ALJ’s analysis addressed that period. [R. 11].
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from gout, dyslexia, and affective, anxiety, and
personality disorders, all of which are “severe” as defined by the Act. [R. 11]. Nonetheless, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Appendix 1. [R. 12]. After
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c) but is restricted from
occupations requiring reading or contact with the general public. [R. 14]. The ALJ then determined
that Plaintiff could perform his past work as a welder and tree trimmer’s assistant. [R. 20]. The ALJ
concluded that this work did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by
Plaintiff’s RFC. [R. 20]. Alternatively, the ALJ found that considering Plaintiff’s age, education,
work experience, and RFC, other jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform. [R. 21]. These include dowel inspector, cuff folder, and nut sorter. [R. 21].
Accordingly, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff is not disabled as that term is defined in the Act, and
therefore is not entitled to DIB or SSI. [R. 22].
Plaintiff’s Argument for Remand or Reversal
Plaintiff seeks to have the ALJ’s decision reversed, or in the alternative, remanded for further
consideration. [Pl.’s Mem. 15]. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by
substantial evidence and improper legal standards were applied because: (1) the ALJ understated the
negative impact of Plaintiff’s emotional problems on his ability to engage in substantial gainful
activity and (2) the ALJ should have contacted Dr. Jin to obtain an explanation for why his opined
physical restrictions were more severe than the documented medical problems. [Pl.’s Mem. 4, 14].
Standard of Review
The only issues before this court are whether the record reveals substantial evidence to
sustain the ALJ’s decision and whether the correct legal standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982); Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th
Cir. 1988); Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
mandates that the commissioner’s findings are conclusive if supported by “substantial evidence.”
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not reconsider the
facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it
must review the final decision as a whole and determine if the decision is reasonable and supported
by substantial evidence. See id. (citing Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir.
Substantial evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a preponderance of evidence;
“[i]t is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other citations
omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner’s factual findings must be
affirmed even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner’s findings. See Martin, 894
F.2d at 1259.
After careful review, the court concludes that the ALJ’s decision is due to be affirmed for the
reasons discussed below.
The ALJ Did Not Err in Rejecting the Opinions of Dr. Archibald and Dr.
Without stating so precisely, Plaintiff’s argument that the ALJ understated the negative
impact of his psychological condition on his ability to work is grounded in the contention that the
ALJ did not properly consider opinions provided by Dr. Archibald, Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist,
and Dr. Storjohann, a one-time examiner. [Pl.’s Mem. 5-12].
Regarding Dr. Archibald’s opinion, the Eleventh Circuit’s “treating physician rule” is the
appropriate standard. When according weight to the opinion of a treating source, it is wellestablished that the opinion must be given substantial, considerable, or event controlling weight
unless “good cause” is shown to the contrary. See e.g., Crawford v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d
1155, 1159 (11th Cir. 2004); Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997). “Good
cause” exists when: (1) the treating physician’s opinion is not bolstered by the evidence; (2) evidence
supports a contrary finding; or (3) the treating physician’s opinion was conclusory or inconsistent
with the doctor’s own medical records. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th Cir. 2003)
(citing Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440). When the ALJ disregards the opinion of a treating physician, he
must clearly articulate his reasons for doing so. Id. Failure to do so constitutes reversible error.
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440.
In making his mental RFC finding that Plaintiff should be restricted from occupations
requiring contact with the general public, the ALJ specifically considered Dr. Archibald’s
“longitudinal observations” but ultimately accorded limited weight to his opinion. [R. 18-19]. The
ALJ stated that Dr. Archibald’s conclusions regarding Plaintiff’s work limitations were not
consistent with other evidence of record including Plaintiff’s testimony and earnings history
indicating that he was able to work for several years as a welder and more recently as a tree
trimmer’s assistant (after the alleged onset date) without being fired due to disputes with co-workers.
[R. 19]. The ALJ also noted that Dr. Archibald’s finding that Plaintiff’s interests were constricted
to a moderately severe degree by his mental impairments conflicted with his own treatments notes
transcribed on the same day (August 3, 2009) that indicated “a lot of [Plaintiff’s] restrictive behavior
is because his wife does not want to do things and he will not leave her.” [R. 19]. Moreover, the ALJ
noted that Plaintiff’s demonstrated capacity to work despite his mental impairments2 and his reported
daily activities were inconsistent with Dr. Archibald’s findings. Plaintiff reported that he performed
personal care, prepared meals, did household chores including mowing two acres, and that he
enjoyed fixing lawn mowers and trucks. [R. 19]. The ALJ also commented that Plaintiff had
recently attended a holiday cookout with family members, which demonstrated Plaintiff could
interact with familiar individuals. [R. 20]. Thus, the ALJ assigned little weight to Dr. Archibald’s
The ALJ indicated that Dr. Archibald’s treatment notes indicate that Plaintiff’s alleged disabling impairments
were present at approximately the same level of severity when he worked prior to and after the alleged disability onset
date. [R. 19]. Notably, when asked by the ALJ how he was able to work through February 2009, sixteen (16) months
after the alleged disability onset date, despite his mental impairments, Plaintiff testified that he “just done it.” [R. 52].
opinion because it was “incompatible with [Plaintiff’s] demonstrated functional capacity, namely
his ability to continue working and maintain a normal set of independent daily activities despite his
mental impairments.” [R. 20].
The ALJ’s finding that Dr. Archibald’s opinion was inconsistent with his own medical
records and that his opinion was not bolstered by other evidence of record is (a) supported by
substantial evidence and (b) constitutes “good cause” for rejecting this opinion. See Phillips, 357
F.3d at 1241. Therefore, the court finds that the ALJ clearly articulated his reasons for rejecting Dr.
Archibald’s opinion and “good cause” existed for doing so. Next, the court considers whether
substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision to reject Dr. Storjohann’s opinion.
It is well settled that the opinion of a one-time examiner is not entitled to deference.
McSwain v. Bowen, 814 F.2d 617, 619 (11th Cir. 1987). Moreover, although the ALJ may reject the
opinion of any physician when the evidence supports a contrary conclusion, the ALJ is required to
state with particularity the weight he gives to different medical opinions and the reasons why.
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1240. Here, the ALJ accorded “somewhat less weight” to the opinion of
Dr. Storjohann than he did to the limited weight assigned to Dr. Archibald’s opinion. [R. 19].
In assigning little weight to Dr. Storjohann’s opinion, the ALJ noted that his findings, based
upon a one-time examination, that Plaintiff’s degree of restriction in his daily activities and the
deterioration in his personal habits was moderately severe, “diverged markedly” from Dr.
Archibald’s opinion, based upon a five year treatment history, that Plaintiff’s restrictions in these
areas was only “mild.” [R. 18]. Additionally, the ALJ stated that Dr. Storjohann’s opinion was not
bolstered by evidentiary support and was inconsistent with the record as a whole. [R. 19]. As he did
in stating his reasons for assigning limited weight to Dr. Archibald’s opinion, the ALJ cited
Plaintiff’s continued employment before and after the alleged disability onset date and Plaintiff’s
activities of daily living as inconsistent with Dr. Storjohann’s findings. [R. 19-20]. Additionally,
the ALJ indicated that Dr. Storjohann’s opinion was not consistent with the findings of another onetime examiner, Dr. Arnold, who concluded that Plaintiff’s bipolar disorder was in partial remission
and observed Plaintiff performing quick mental math calculations and other reasoning drills. [R.
The ALJ stated with great particularity the reasons for assigning little weight to Dr.
Storjohann’s opinion, and substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s findings. See e.g., Ellison v.
Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003) (holding that the fact claimant had worked for
several years in spite of his seizure disorder, along with medical opinions that claimant’s seizure
disorder did not prevent him from meeting the demands of unskilled work, constituted substantial
evidence which supported the ALJ’s decision to discredit the opinion of an examining physician that
the claimant was totally disabled); Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1240 (“[T]he Secretary may reject the
opinion of any physician when the evidence supports a contrary conclusion.”) (internal citations
The ALJ Did Not Err in Failing to Recontact Dr. Jin
Plaintiff next asserts that the ALJ had a duty to recontact Dr. Jin to explain why the
restrictions identified in his consultative examining report were greater than Dr. Jin’s diagnosed
physical impairments and his examination findings. [Pl.’s Mem. at 14]. Plaintiff cites no legal
authority for this proposition. However, the court does note that the regulations governing
recontacting consultative examiners state that “[i]f the report is inadequate or incomplete, we will
contact the medical source who performed the consultative examination, give an explanation of our
evidentiary needs, and as that the medical source furnish the missing information or prepare a revised
report.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1519p(b), 416.919p(b). The regulations further provide that, although
the agency will normally request as part of the consultative examiner’s report a medical source
statement regarding what a claimant can do despite his limitations, one is not required and the lack
of such a report does not make the record incomplete. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1519n(c)(6). Because
Dr. Jin was not required to provided a functional capacity opinion, the ALJ had no duty to recontact
him for an explanation of his findings.
Moreover, as already noted above, the ALJ was free to reject Dr. Jin’s opinions, based upon
a one-time consultative examination, as long as he stated the reasons for doing so. Dr. Jin’s opinion
was entitled to no special deference. See McSwain, 814 F.2d at 619. The ALJ assigned no weight
to Dr. Jin’s opinion regarding Plaintiff’s functional limitations because his medical source statement
was inconsistent with his own examination notes and observations. [R. 15-16]. Specifically, the ALJ
stated that Dr. Jin’s opinion is “unsubstantiated by his largely benign clinical examination findings.”
[R. 16]. Thus, because the ALJ found that evidence supported a contrary conclusion, the ALJ
properly rejected Dr. Jin’s opinion by explicitly stating the reasons for doing so. Therefore, because
(1) the ALJ had no duty to recontact Dr. Jin and (2) the ALJ stated that he assigned little weight to
Dr. Jin’s opinion because Dr. Jin’s own examination notes, which formed part of the evidence of
record, were inconsistent with his Jin’s ultimate opinion regarding Plaintiff’s limitations, substantial
evidence supports the ALJ’s findings on this issue. See e.g., Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1240 (ALJ
may reject opinion of any physician when the evidence supports a contrary conclusion as long as the
ALJ states his reasons for doing so). The ALJ’s decision is not due to be reversed on this ground.
For the reasons outlined above, the court concludes that the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff
is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and proper legal standards were applied.
Therefore, the Commissioner’s decision is due to be affirmed. A separate order in accordance with
this memorandum of decision will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED this
day of April, 2013.
R. DAVID PROCTOR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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