Nix v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 8/23/2013. (JLC)
2013 Aug-23 PM 04:09
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MARY D. NIX,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
) Case No.: 1:12-CV-1128-VEH
Plaintiff Mary D. Nix (“Ms. Nix”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
§ 205(g) of the Social Security Act. She seeks review of a final adverse decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), who
denied her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
The court notes that, on February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin was named the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. See
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colvin.htm (“On February 14, 2013, Carolyn
W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.”). Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), “[a]ny
action instituted in accordance with this subsection shall survive notwithstanding any change in the
person occupying the officer of Commissioner of Social Security or any vacancy in such office.”
Accordingly, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
the court has substituted Carolyn W. Colvin for Michael Astrue in the case caption above and
HEREBY DIRECTS the clerk to do the same party substitution on CM/ECF.
Security Income (“SSI”).2 Ms. Nix timely pursued and exhausted her administrative
remedies available before the Commissioner. The case is thus ripe for review under
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).3
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Ms. Nix was forty years old at the time of the onset of her alleged disability on
January 1, 2009, and was forty-two years old at the time of her hearing before the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 119). She has some high school education,
and has completed the eleventh grade. (Tr. 163). Ms. Nix’s past employment
includes working as a sewing machine operator, a fast food worker, and a
wrapper/packer at a paper company. (Tr. 44). She claims she became disabled on
January 1, 2009, due to pancreatitis.4 Id.
On December 1, 2008, Ms. Nix protectively filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and DIB. (Tr. 122-28). She also protectively filed a Title XVI
application for SSI on that date. (Tr. 119-21). Both applications alleged that Ms.
In general, the legal standards applied are the same regardless of whether a claimant seeks
DIB or SSI. However, separate, parallel statutes and regulations exist for DIB and SSI claims.
Therefore, citations in this opinion should be considered to refer to the appropriate parallel provision
as context dictates. The same applies to citations of statutes or regulations found in quoted court
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) renders the judicial review provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) fully
applicable to claims for SSI.
In her disability applications, Ms. Nix initially alleged an onset date of January 1, 2008.
(Tr. 119, 122). She amended the date to January 1, 2009, at the hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 44).
Nix’s disability began on January 1, 2008. Id. On February 17, 2009, the
Commissioner initially denied these claims. (Tr. 74-75). Ms. Nix timely filed a
written request for a hearing on February 23, 2009. (Tr. 90-91).
The ALJ conducted a hearing on the matter on November 30, 2009. (Tr. 2573). At the hearing, Ms. Nix amended her alleged onset date to January 1, 2009. (Tr.
44). On May 10, 2010, the ALJ issued his opinion concluding Ms. Nix was not
disabled and denying her benefits. (Tr. 7-22). Ms. Nix timely petitioned the Appeals
Council (“AC”) to review the decision on June 25, 2010. (Tr. 118). On March 9,
2012, the AC declined to review her claims. (Tr. 1-6). Thus, the ALJ’s decision
became the Commissioner’s final disability determination.
Ms. Nix filed a complaint with this court on April 16, 2012, seeking review of
the Commissioner’s final decision. (Doc. 1). With the parties having fully briefed
the matter, the court has carefully considered the parties’ arguments and the record,
and for the reasons stated below, reverses the Commissioner’s denial of benefits, and
remands the case for further development and consideration.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision is narrowly circumscribed.
The function of this court is to determine whether the decision of the Commissioner
is supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards were applied.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219,
1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This court must “scrutinize the record as a whole to determine
if the decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.”
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence
is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support
a conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
This court must uphold factual findings that are supported by substantial
evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ’s legal conclusions de novo because no
presumption of validity attaches to the ALJ’s determination of the proper legal
standards to be applied. Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
court finds an error in the ALJ’s application of the law, or if the ALJ fails to provide
the court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the proper legal analysis has
been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ’s decision. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d
1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
To qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her entitlement for a
period of disability, a claimant must be disabled as defined by the Social Security Act
and the Regulations promulgated thereunder.5 The Regulations define “disabled” as
“the inability to do 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
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To establish an entitlement to
disability benefits, a claimant must provide evidence about a “physical or mental
impairment” which “must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
The Regulations provide a five-step process for determining whether a claimant
is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
whether the claimant is currently employed;
whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
whether the claimant’s impairment meets or equals an impairment listed
by the [Commissioner];
whether the claimant can perform his or her past work; and
whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing to formerly applicable
The “Regulations” promulgated under the Social Security Act are listed in 20 C.F.R. Parts
400 to 499, current through July 11, 2013.
C.F.R. section), overruled on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189 F.3d 561, 56263 (7th Cir. 1999); accord McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986).
The sequential analysis goes as follows:
Once the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will automatically be
found disabled if she suffers from a listed impairment. If the claimant does not
have a listed impairment but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some other job.
Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995).
The Commissioner must further show that such work exists in the national economy
in significant numbers. Id.
FINDINGS OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE
After consideration of the entire record, the ALJ makes the following findings
of fact and conclusions of law:
Ms. Nix meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2012. (Tr. 12).
Ms. Nix has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2009,
the alleged onset date of her disability. Id.
Ms. Nix has the following severe impairments: diverticulosis, remote history
of chronic pancreatitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”), and
Ms. Nix does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15).
After careful consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that Ms. Nix has
the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967. Id.
Ms. Nix is capable of performing past relevant work as a fast food worker. (Tr.
16). This work does not require the performance of work related activities
precluded by the claimant’s residual functional capacity. Id.
Accordingly, the ALJ concludes that Ms. Nix has not been under a disability,
as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2009, through the date of the
ALJ’s decision and denies both her DIB and SSI claims. (Tr. 18).
When reviewing an ALJ’s determination of benefits, “[t]here are specific rules
that [the court] follows in deciding whether evidence is substantial.” Broughton v.
Heckler, 776 F.2d 960, 961-62 (11th Cir. 1985). As analyzed more fully below, the
ALJ’s determination that Ms. Nix is able to perform a full range of light work is not
supported by substantial evidence for at least two reasons:
1) The ALJ fails to clarify what weight, if any, he gives to the medical
evidence that he discusses in his opinion and also appears to violate the
Eleventh Circuit’s rules regarding treatment of medical opinions; and
2) The ALJ fails to clarify that he has considered all of Ms. Nix’s severe
impairments both separately and collectively in formulating her residual
Therefore, and under the circumstances of Ms. Nix’s case, the court concludes that
the Commissioner has committed reversible error.6
THE ALJ’S VAGUE TREATMENT OF THE MEDICAL EVIDENCE
CONSTITUTES REVERSIBLE ERROR.
It is well settled in the Eleventh Circuit that an ALJ must state specifically the
weight accorded each item of evidence and the reasons for his decision. See, e.g.,
Cowart v. Schweiker, 662 F.2d 731, 735 (11th Cir. 1981) (“What is required is that
the ALJ state specifically the weight accorded to each item of evidence and why he
reached that decision.”); Cowart, 662 F.2d at 735 (“In the absence of such a
statement, it is impossible for a reviewing court to determine whether the ultimate
decision on the merits of the claim is rational and supported by substantial
evidence.”); Hudson v. Heckler, 755 F.2d 781, 785 (11th Cir. 1985) (“The decision
rendered by the ALJ also does not make clear the weight accorded the evidence
considered.”); Ryan v. Heckler, 762 F.2d 939, 942 (11th Cir. 1985) (“We cannot,
however, conduct a review that is both limited and meaningful if the ALJ does not
state with sufficient clarity the legal rules being applied and the weight accorded the
evidence considered.” (citing Owens v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 1511 (11th Cir. 1984))).
With respect to an ALJ’s consideration of medical opinions more specifically,
As a result, the court does not reach the merits of the other issues presented on appeal, such
as the issue of excessive absenteeism in Ms. Nix’s ability to maintain substantial gainful
employment, and the lack of the ALJ’s reference to a vocationally-related medical statement from
a treating, examining, or consultative physician to support his assessment of Ms. Nix’s residual
the following framework applies:
In assessing the medical evidence in this case, the ALJ was required to
state with particularity the weight he gave the different medical opinions
and the reasons therefor. MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053
(11th Cir. 1986). Further, he was required to accord considerable
weight to appellant’s treating physician’s opinion absent good cause for
not doing so. Broughton v. Heckler, 776 F.2d 960, 961–62 (11th Cir.
985) (per curiam). The opinions of nonexamining, reviewing
physicians, such as those of Drs. Thomas and Register, when contrary
to those of the examining physicians, are entitled to little weight, and
standing alone do not constitute substantial evidence. See Spencer ex
rel. Spencer v. Heckler, 765 F.2d 1090, 1094 (11th Cir. 1985) (per
curiam). Of course, the ALJ may reject any medical opinion if the
evidence supports a contrary finding. Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d 834,
835 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam).
The ALJ, here, disregarded these rules in assigning weight to the
various medical opinions. The only opinions that indicated that
appellant could meet the medium work requirements of 20 C.F.R.
404.1567(c) (1986) were those of the nonexamining physicians, Drs.
Thomas and Register. Their opinions were entitled to little weight,
however, and could not serve as substantial evidence.
Shafarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279-80 (11th Cir. 1987).
Here, the ALJ’s decision runs afoul of these rules relating to treatment of
medical evidence. In sum, while the ALJ observes that the record contains “questions
as to the etiology of the claimant’s abdominal pain[,]” he never clarifies which
medical opinions he relies upon when evaluating Ms. Nix’s abdominal pain and its
impact upon her residual functional capacity. (Tr. 16).
For example, the ALJ recognizes Dr. Bashar Hakim (“Dr. Hakim”) as Ms.
Nix’s treating gastrointestinal physician and notes that Dr. Hakim attributes Ms.
Nix’s symptoms of abdominal pain to recurrent pancreatitis. However, the ALJ never
states the amount of weight that he affords to Dr. Hakim’s opinion that Ms. Nix
suffers from chronic pancreatitis. (Tr. 16).
Further, even though “[t]he law of this circuit is clear that the testimony of a
treating physician must be given substantial or considerable weight unless ‘good
cause’ is shown to the contrary”, Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir.
1997) (citing MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053 (11th Cir. 1986)), the ALJ
never expressly accepts or rejects Dr. Hakim’s opinion (much less articulates any
good cause for its rejection). (Tr. 16). However, at the same time, in listing Ms.
Nix’s severe impairments, the ALJ characterizes her chronic pancreatitis as one of a
“remote history,” suggesting to the court that the ALJ, at most, only partially credits
Dr. Hakim’s opinion. Such ambiguous treatment of Dr. Hakim’s critical medical
opinion constitutes reversible error. Cf. Hudson v. Heckler, 755 F.2d 781, 785 (11th
Cir. 1985) (“The decision rendered by the ALJ also does not make clear the weight
accorded the evidence considered.”); id. at 785-86 (“The ALJ, for example, does not
explain why she obviously discounts Dr. Meyers’s evaluation . . . .”).
The ALJ then discusses the report of Dr. Charles Wilcox (“Dr. Wilcox”), a
gastrointestinal specialist who evaluated Ms. Nix at Dr. Hakim’s request. The ALJ
indicates that Dr. Wilcox’s findings “are inconsistent with that diagnosis.” (Tr. 16).
However, the ALJ does not clarify whether he accepts Dr. Wilcox’s opinion over that
of Dr. Hakim.
Finally, the ALJ identifies Dr. Adetokunbo Ladipo (“Dr. Ladipo”) as Ms.
Nix’s current primary care physician, and lists the medications that he has prescribed
for her, including Pancrease and Pangestyme for the treatment of pancreatitis. Id.
However, the ALJ, once again does not state what weight he assigns to Dr. Ladipo’s
records, which are consistent with Ms. Nix’s diagnosis and related symptoms of
recurring pancreatitis. (Tr. 16).
Instead, without resolving any of these competing medical opinions and other
diverging treatment records, the ALJ summarily proposes that the source of Ms. Nix’s
abdominal pain could be her diverticulosis and ultimately states that “[r]egardless of
its source, there is no question that the claimant has presented for treatment of
abdominal pain on countless occasions; however, the severity of that pain and its
expected affect on her ability to work must still be determined.” Id. The ALJ then
goes on to assess Ms. Nix’s credibility. Id.
When incompatible medical opinions and other evidence relating to a
claimant’s allegedly disabling conditions are contained in the record, such as is the
situation here regarding Ms. Nix’s chronic pancreatitis, then the ALJ’s obligation to
specify the weight given to such differing proof becomes even more important as
Cowart, Hudson, Ryan, and Shafarz all confirm. Otherwise, the court is ill-equipped
to decipher, much less to aptly review, how the ALJ resolved those matters of
conflict. See Cowart, 662 F.2d at 735 (finding reversible error in the absence of
assigning weight, because such a “statement tells us nothing whatsoever—it goes
without saying that the ALJ gave the testimony the weight he believed should be
accorded to it”); Hudson, 755 F.2d at 786 (rejecting as inadequate ALJ’s indication
that he has “carefully considered all the testimony given at the hearing and the
documents described in the List of Exhibits. . . .”) (internal quotation marks omitted);
cf. Jackson v. Astrue, No. CV 107-020, 2008 WL 596769, at *6 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 4,
2008) (“In this case, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ’s consideration of Plaintiff’s
psychological impairment is inadequate because not only did the ALJ fail to address
the opinions of Drs. Hartlage and Lewis, the ALJ also failed to explain the weight
given to the medical opinions she did cite.”) (emphasis added); id. (“Although the
Commissioner dedicates four pages of his brief to describing the findings of these
four medical opinions and another four pages assigning weight to these opinions in
a post-hoc attempt to minimize this error, the fact remains that the ALJ did not
perform such an analysis at the administrative level.”) (citation omitted) (emphasis
Therefore, because the ALJ neglects to assign weight to any of the medical
evidence that he identifies as relevant to his decision, he has committed reversible
error. Further, while the ALJ is permitted to reject the opinion of a treating physician
when good cause to do so is adequately explained in the decision as well as
substantiated by the record, an omission in following this framework also amounts
to reversible error.
Accordingly, the ALJ’s decision is due to be reversed and remanded for further
development consistent with this opinion. On remand, the ALJ should discuss all
medical evidence with the requisite specificity.
THE COURT CANNOT VERIFY WHETHER THE ALJ CONSIDERS
ALL OF MS. NIX’S SEVERE IMPAIRMENTS SINGULARLY OR IN
COMBINATION WHEN FORMULATING HER RESIDUAL
If the Commissioner finds a medically severe combination of impairments in
step two of the sequential evaluation, the regulations provide that the Commissioner
must consider the impact of the medically severe combination of impairments
throughout the disability determination process. See Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528,
532 (11th Cir. 1993) (“If the Secretary finds, at step two, ‘a medically severe
combination of impairments, the combined impact of the impairments will be
considered throughout the disability determination process.’” (quoting 20 C.F.R. §
416.923)); see also Reeves v. Heckler, 734 F.2d 519, 525 (11th Cir. 1984) (“20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1522 (1983) requires the ALJ to consider the combination of a claimant’s
impairments. The reason for this is so obvious that it requires no discussion . . .
[T]his failure to follow the regulations requires that the case be remanded for further
consideration under the appropriate standards”).
In Hudson, the Eleventh Circuit succinctly explained this rule relating to
Appellant does correctly contend, however, that the Secretary did
not follow her own regulations. In making her disability determination
the ALJ found that appellant had the following impairments: obesity,
chronic low back pain (no etiology established), chronic intermittent
hypertension, a mild to moderate dysthymic disorder, and a histrionic
personality disorder. The ALJ decided that separately none of these
impairments was so severe as to render appellant disabled. The ALJ,
however, did not consider whether the combination of appellant’s
impairments rendered her disabled. Where a “claimant has alleged a
multitude of impairments, a claim . . . may lie even though none of the
impairments, considered individually, is disabling.” Bowen v. Heckler,
748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir.1984). The ALJ, therefore, has a duty to
consider the impairments in combination. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1522
(1984). Failure to do so requires that the case be vacated and remanded
for the proper consideration.
755 F.2d at 785 (footnote omitted) (emphasis added).
The court is unable to verify that the ALJ has considered all of Ms. Nix’s
severe impairments consistent with these foregoing principles. The ALJ finds that
Ms. Nix suffers from the following severe impairments: diverticulosis, remote
history of chronic pancreatitis, GERD, and obesity. (Tr. 12). However, aside from
identifying these impairments in his initial findings at step two of the evaluative
process, the ALJ fails to discuss two of these four severe conditions at any subsequent
point subsequently in his opinion, and only briefly mentions a third one.
Instead, the ALJ begins with a lengthy explanation of the history of Ms. Nix’s
chronic pancreatitis, including a survey of various medical findings and physician’s
opinions relating to this condition.7 (Tr. 13-14). After explaining the reasons for not
finding Ms. Nix’s depression or hypothyroidism as severe impairments, the ALJ
proceeds to the next step of his analysis. (Tr. 15).
During the residual functional capacity portion of his decision, the ALJ
discusses Ms. Nix’s abdominal pain, questions whether pancreatitis or diverticulosis
is the source of that discomfort, and then engages in an analysis of Ms. Nix’s
subjective allegations of pain and other disabling symptoms, including the credibility
of those claims. (Tr. 15-16). The ALJ ultimately discredits Ms. Nix’s subjective
allegations finding them to be “simply not credible.” (Tr. 16).
However, the ALJ never expressly states in his analysis that he is considering
Again, the ALJ fails to accord any weight to any of the opinions that he mentions in this
explanation of Ms. Nix’s history of pancreatitis. Furthermore, this particular segment of the ALJ’s
opinion seems to be an attempt to persuade the reader that Ms. Nix does not suffer from pancreatitis,
although the ALJ determined chronic pancreatitis to be a severe impairment from which she suffers.
the impact of each one of Ms. Nix’s impairments both singularly and collectively.
Instead, the ALJ appears to have only considered the disabling effects of her
abdominal pain caused by chronic pancreatitis. (Tr. 15-16).
Alternatively, the ALJ appears to have lumped her conditions of chronic
pancreatitis and diverticulosis together when evaluating her subjective complaints
about abdominal pain. (See Tr. 16 (“The claimant has a longstanding history of
diverticulosis, and ER records confirm that her symptoms have been attributed to that
condition on multiple occasions.”); id. (“Regardless of its source, there is no question
that the claimant has presented for treatment of abdominal pain on countless
occasions . . . .”)). Thus, while the ALJ finds Ms. Nix to suffer from four severe
impairments (i.e., diverticulosis, chronic pancreatitis, GERD, and obesity), absent
from his residual functional assessment is any discussion of the disabling effects
presented by Ms. Nix’s severe conditions of GERD and obesity,8 singularly or in
conjunction with, her chronic pancreatitis and diverticulosis. (Tr. 12; Tr. 15-16).
In Gibson v. Heckler, 779 F.2d 619 (11th Cir. 1986), the Eleventh Circuit
reversed an ALJ’s finding that the claimant was not disabled because the ALJ failed
Social Security Ruling 02-1p provides guidance on the consideration of obesity as a
disabling condition. See SSR 02-01p, 2000 WL 628049, at *1 (S.S.A.) (“Purpose: To provide
guidance on SSA policy concerning the evaluation of obesity in disability claims filed under titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act).”).
to consider all impairments singularly and in combination. See Gibson, 779 F.2d at
623 (“This court agrees that the ALJ failed to consider each impairment alleged by
Mrs. Gibson and the combined effect of those impairments.”). As the Eleventh
Circuit further explained in Gibson, the ALJ “did not discuss whether these claimed
impairments were sufficiently severe—either singularly or in combination—to create
a disability.” Id.; see also Strickland v. Harris, 615 F.2d 1103, 1110 (5th Cir. 1980)
(“The ALJ addressed certain of the claimant’s complaints separately, tending to
minimize them . . . , but he devoted no discussion and made no factfindings as to
disability indicated as arising from the interaction or cumulation of even those
medical problems whose existence he acknowledged or did not rule out.”).9
In sum, because the court cannot verify that the ALJ considered all of Ms.
Nix’s severe impairments, singularly or collectively, in making his residual functional
capacity determination, the Commissioner’s final decision is not supported by
substantial evidence, and the case is due to be remanded for further development of
the record for this alternative reason.
An “ALJ is required to explain his findings explicitly not just for the claimant’s
Strickland is binding precedent in this Circuit. See Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d
1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc) (adopting as binding precedent all decisions of the former
Fifth Circuit handed down prior to October 1, 1981).
benefit[, but also because] [c]lear and specific findings are the sine qua non of
effective review in this court.” Cook v. Barnhart, 347 F. Supp. 2d 1125, 1132 (M.D.
Ala. 2004); see also Owens, 748 F.2d at 1514-15 (“A clear articulation of both fact
and law is essential to our ability to conduct a review that is both limited and
meaningful.”). While a search of the record and a rigorous analysis of the various
medical opinions therein may possibly provide support for the ALJ’s decision, there
is not enough clarity in the ALJ’s opinion for this court to conclude that substantial
evidence supports it.
Further, this court will decline to affirm “simply because some rationale might
have supported the ALJ’s conclusion.” Owens, 748 F.2d at 1516. Accordingly,
because the ALJ does not properly address the medical evidence relied upon in his
decision, and because the ALJ fails to indicate that he considered all of Ms. Nix’s
severe impairments singularly or in combination when making his residual functional
capacity determination, the decision of the Commission is not supported by
substantial evidence, and is due to be remanded for further development consistent
with these two independent reasons.
DONE and ORDERED this 23rd day of August, 2013.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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