Sanders v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CASE that the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED and costs are taxed against claimant as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 7/17/2013. (AHI )
2013 Jul-17 AM 10:23
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner, Social Security
Civil Action No. CV-12-S-3682-S
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Claimant Sharan Sanders commenced this action on October 23, 2012,
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 a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits. For the reasons stated herein, the court finds that the Commissioner’s ruling
is due to be affirmed.
The 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).
Claimant contends that the Commissioner’s decision is neither supported by
substantial evidence nor in accordance with applicable legal standards. Specifically,
claimant asserts that the ALJ failed to consider all the medical evidence of record and
failed to consider the combined effect of all of claimant’s impairments on her ability
to perform work activities. Upon review of the record, the court concludes these
contentions are without merit.
First, claimant asserts that the ALJ failed to acknowledge the majority of the
medical evidence in the record, and also that he failed to properly evaluate or explain
the weight afforded to each piece of evidence.
The ALJ must “carefully weigh evidence, giving individualized
consideration to each claim that comes before him.” Miles v. Chater, 84
F.3d 1397, 1401 (11th Cir. 1996). The ALJ has a duty to make clear the
weight accorded to each item of evidence and the reasons for his
decision in order to enable a reviewing court to determine whether the
decision was based on substantial evidence. Cowart v. Schweiker, 662
F.2d 731, 735 (11th Cir. 1981). However, “there is no rigid requirement
that the ALJ specifically refer to every piece of evidence in his
decision.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1557 (11th Cir. 1995)). Id. The
ALJ’s decision need not be a “broad rejection which does not enable this
Court to conclude that the ALJ considered the claimant’s medical
conditions as a whole.” Id. Moreover, an ALJ can rely on a
non-examining physician’s report in denying disability insurance
benefits where the non-examining physician’s report does not contradict
information in the examining physician’s reports. Edwards v. Sullivan,
937 F.2d 580, 584–85 (11th Cir. 1991).
Randolph v. Astrue, 291 F. App’x 979, 982 (11th Cir. 2008).
Here, it is true that the ALJ did not provide a detailed summary of all of the
medical evidence, and he did not specifically refer to every piece of medical evidence
in the record. Even so, that does not necessarily mean that the ALJ failed in his duty
to consider all of the evidence. To the contrary, the ALJ specifically discussed
claimant’s musculoskeletal and eye impairments in his administrative decision.1 In
crediting the consultative examination report from Dr. Bruce Romeo, the ALJ stated
that Dr. Romeo’s opinions were “consistent with the treating source records and the
objective medical evidence.”2 The ALJ’s decision is sufficient to enable this court
to determine that the ALJ properly evaluated all of the pertinent medical evidence as
The ALJ also observed that the record did not “contain an opinion from a
treating physician that indicates the claimant has greater restriction or limitations than
those included within her residual functional capacity.”3
That observation is
significant because claimant has not pointed to any medical opinion about her actual
functional limitations that the ALJ supposedly failed to consider, or to assign weight
Tr. 39-40. See also Tr. 41 (“The record is devoid of any objective evidence, which indicates
that the claimant has an impairment related to her knees.”).
Tr. 42 (emphasis supplied).
to. Instead, claimant has pointed only to certain examination and treatment records
from claimant’s physicians that supposedly did not receive the ALJ’s proper
consideration. That evidence indicates that claimant suffered from conditions such
as glaucoma, wrist pain, and status post shoulder surgery, but none of the evidence
actually indicates that she suffered functional limitations greater than those identified
by the ALJ. Thus, even if the ALJ did fail to properly discuss some portions of the
medical evidence, any error on his part was harmless. See, e.g., Wright v. Barnhart,
153 F. App’x 678, 684 (11th Cir. 2005) (holding that, even if an ALJ fails to state the
weight afforded to physicians’ opinions, any resulting error is harmless if those
opinions do not contradict the ALJ’s findings).
Additionally, the court concludes that the ALJ properly considered the
combined effect of all of claimant’s impairments. Social Security regulations state
the following with regard to the Commissioner’s duty in evaluating multiple
In determining whether your physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of a sufficient medical severity that such impairment or
impairments could be the basis of eligibility under the law, we will
consider the combined effect of all of your impairments without regard
to whether any such impairment, if considered separately, would be of
sufficient severity. If we do find a medically severe combination of
impairments, the combined impact of the impairments will be considered
throughout the disability determination process. If we do not find that
you have a medically severe combination of impairments, we will
determine that you are not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 1523. See also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(e), 416.945(e) (stating that, when
the claimant has any severe impairment, the ALJ is required to assess the limiting
effects of all of the claimant’s impairments — including those that are not severe —
in determining the claimant’s residual functional capacity).
Claimant asserts that the analysis by the ALJ in this case “stop[ped] at whether
Plaintiff’s impairments meet the Listings, again failing to consider records from
Cooper Green Hospital as to additional severe impairments, including glaucoma.”4
The record simply does not support that argument. To the contrary, the ALJ
considered claimant’s musculoskeletal condition and glaucoma; he just did not find
those conditions to constitute severe impairments.5 The ALJ also entered a finding
that claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled one of the listed impairments, and he stated that he had considered
all of claimant’s symptoms.6 Under Eleventh Circuit law, statements of that sort are
sufficient to indicate that the ALJ properly considered all of claimant’s impairments.
See Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1224 (11th Cir. 2002); Jones v. Dept. of
Health and Human Services, 941 F.2d 1529, 1533 (11th Cir. 1991).
Doc. no. 8 (claimant’s brief), at 8 (alteration supplied).
See Tr. 39-40.
In accordance with all of the foregoing, the court concludes that the ALJ’s
decision was supported by substantial evidence and in accordance with applicable
legal standards. Accordingly, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Costs are taxed against claimant. The Clerk is directed to close this file.
DONE this 17th day of July, 2013.
United States District Judge
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