Carlisle v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge Staci G Cornelius on 3/26/15. (MRR )
2015 Mar-26 PM 03:47
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
WANDA JEAN CARLISLE
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
Case No. 2:14-cv-00121-SGC
Plaintiff, Wanda Jean Carlisle, appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (ACommissioner@) denying her applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (ADIB@) and Supplemental Security Income (ASSI@). Plaintiff timely pursued
and exhausted her administrative remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). After consideration of the record and for
the reasons stated below, the court concludes this action is due to be affirmed.
I. Procedural History
Plaintiff initially filed applications for DIB and SSI benefits in June 2011, alleging a
disability onset date of November 19, 2008, due to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
(R. 120-134, 154).1 After the Social Security Administration (ASSA@) denied her applications,
plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (AALJ@), which was held on
September 25, 2012. (R. 20). Following the hearing, the ALJ found plaintiff had the severe
impairments of neuralgia of the right foot, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity but did not
Reference to a record number (AR. ___ A) refers to the page number in the bound physical copy of the transcript of
the entire record of the proceedings.
have an impairment or a combination of impairments listed in or medically equivalent to one listed
in the Listings of Impairments. (R. 23). The ALJ further found plaintiff was not under a
disability at any time through the date of his decision. (R. 27). Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals
Council, which Afound no reason under [its] rules to review the Administrative Law Judge=s
decision@ and, therefore, denied plaintiff=s request for review. (R. 1). Thus, the ALJ=s decision is
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Plaintiff then filed the appeal in this
court on January 17, 2014, seeking reversal or remand of the Commissioner=s decision. (Doc. 1).
On June 13, 2014, the parties consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). (Doc. 9).
II. Factual Background
At the time of the ALJ=s decision, plaintiff was forty-seven years old. (R. 37; see R
26-27). Plaintiff did not complete high school and had prior work experience as a hospital cleaner
and day worker. (R. 26, 37).
A. Plaintiff=s Medical Records
On November 17, 2008, plaintiff was seen by Dr. Rolando Sanchez, M.D., at UAB. Dr.
Sanchez's report documents plaintiff's then-recent admission to the hospital with acute
The records from that hospitalization note plaintiff's
complaints of dizziness and headache. (R. 212). Dr. Sanchez recorded plaintiff's complaints of
chest pain and primary diagnoses of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. (R. 212). Dr.
Sanchez increased plaintiff's blood pressure medication, noted neuropathy from diabetes, and
counseled plaintiff to eat better and exercise. (R. 213).
On May 20, 2011, plaintiff was admitted to St. Vincent's East complaining of foot pain.
(R. 232, 235). Examination revealed a diabetic foot wound on plaintiff's right foot. (R. 229).
On May 21, 2011, plaintiff underwent irrigation and debridgement surgery to treat the wound.
Plaintiff had additional foot problems after stepping on a piece of glass in June 2011.
(R. 243). She underwent surgery to drain this later foot wound on June 6, 2011. (R. 244).
wound was slow to heal, requiring several post-operative visits through July 2011. (R. 241-48).
On September 10, 2012, plaintiff established care at Birmingham Healthcare and was seen
by Dr. Sarah Scheurich-Payne, M.D. (R. 265). Dr. Scheurich-Payne diagnosed plaintiff with
diabetes mellitus, benign essential hypertension, and foot pain. (R. 266). On October 3, 2012,
plaintiff returned to Birmingham Healthcare, where neuralgia was added to plaintiff's diagnoses.
B. Plaintiff=s Testimony
Plaintiff testified she suffers from constant pain in both feet which radiates to her back.
(R. 38, 43). At the time of the hearing, plaintiff's right foot pain was long-standing, but she
testified to more recent pain in her left foot as well. (See R. 38). Plaintiff testified the surgery to
her diabetic foot wound in May 2011 did not alleviate her pain, which she experienced daily and
described as "needle-like." (R. 38, 43). Plaintiff testified she attempted to treat the pain by
rubbing lotion on her leg. (R. 43). While she was originally prescribed Lortab, plaintiff testified
she tried not to take it too often. (R. 44).
Plaintiff also testified she suffers from middle back pain and headaches.
explained her back begins hurting when she leans over for too long. (R. 44). Regarding
headaches, plaintiff stated she suffers from constant migraine headaches and that she had been
experiencing them since she was a child. (R.44-45). Plaintiff could not remember the name of
the medication she takes for migraines. (R. 45).
Plaintiff stated her typical day starts with getting up and eating breakfast. (R. 45).
Plaintiff then "tr[ies] to do a little something around the house" but begins suffering from foot pain
and tries to relax and avoid activity. (R. 45). Plaintiff estimated she could do housework for
approximately three hours before foot pain would force her to get in bed and prop her feet up. (R.
46). From August 2011 until September 2012, plaintiff did not visit any doctors due to lack of
insurance. (R. 48-49). However, plaintiff testified she continued to experience problems and
attempted to treat her pain with over-the-counter medicines and rest. (R. 49-50). Plaintiff
testified she had difficulty sitting for more than 10 or 15 minutes due to pain and could walk less
than a mile. (R. 50). Plaintiff testified she could lift five or ten pounds and had difficulty
sleeping for more than six hours. (R. 51-52).
III. Standard of Review
In reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act, the court "is limited to an
inquiry into whether there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner, and
whether the correct legal standards were applied." Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th
Cir. 2002); see also Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988). The court "may not
decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner], rather [it] must scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the decision
reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence." Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520,
1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983))
(internal quotations and other citation omitted).
"The Commissioner=s factual findings are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence." Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1221 (citing Martin, 894
F.2d at 1529; Allen v. Bowen, 816 F.2d 600, 602 (11th Cir. 1987)). Conclusions
reviewed de novo. Ingram v. Comm=r of Soc. Sec., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529).
A. The Five-Step Evaluation
The regulations require the Commissioner to follow a five-step sequential evaluation to
determine whether a claimant is eligible for a period of disability. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920; Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470 (1986). "[A]n individual shall be
considered to be disabled for purposes of [determining eligibility for benefits] if he 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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The
specific steps in the evaluation process and the ALJ=s findings for each step are noted below.
1. Substantial Gainful Employment
First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial
gainful activity." Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). If the claimant is engaged in
substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner will find that the claimant is not disabled, regardless
of the claimant=s medical condition or her age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). Here, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date. (R. 22).
2. Severe Impairments
If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner must next
determine whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment or combination of impairments
that significantly limits the claimant=s physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
The burden is on the claimant to "provide
medical evidence showing ... impairment(s)" and their severity during the time the claimant
alleges disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(c), 416.912(c). An impairment is "severe" if it
"significantly limits [a] claimant=s physical or mental ability to do basic work activities." 2
Crayton v. Callahan, 120 F.3d 1217, 1219 (11th Cir. 1997). "[A]n impairment can be considered
as not severe only if it is a slight abnormality which has such a minimal effect on the individual
that it would not be expected to interfere with the individual=s ability to work, irrespective of age,
education, or work experience." Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 920 (11th Cir. 1984); see also
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a); 416.921(a).
A claimant may be found disabled based on a
combination of impairments even though none of the individual impairments alone are disabling.
Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 1001 (11th Cir. 1985); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1523, 416.923.
Here, the ALJ found plaintiff had the severe impairments of neuralgia of the right foot,
diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity. (R. 22). The ALJ determined plaintiff's complaints
of daily migraine headaches and back pain were not severe, due to the lack of medical evidence in
the record. (R. 22-23). The ALJ acknowledged plaintiff's claim of heart failure in the disability
report and noted plaintiff's history of poorly controlled diabetes mellitus with resulting coronary
artery disease and retinopathy.
However, the ALJ found a complete lack of
documentation regarding limitations from or treatment for heart failure, coronary artery disease, or
retinopathy. (R. 23). Accordingly, the ALJ found these impairments were not severe. (R. 23).
Finally, the ALJ found plaintiff's alleged history of gout was not a medically determinable
impairment and that there was no indication of diagnosis or treatment in the record. (R. 23).
Basic work activities include:
(1) Physical functions such as walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching,
carrying, or handling; (2) [c]apacities for seeing, hearing, and speaking; (3) [u]nderstanding,
carrying out, and remembering simple instructions; (4) [u]se of judgment; (5) [r]esponding
appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and usual work situations; and (6) [d]ealing with changes
in a routine work setting.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(b)(1)-(6), 416.921(b)(1)-(6).
3. The Listings
If the claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner must then determine whether
the claimant=s impairment meets the duration requirement and whether it is equivalent to any one
of the listed impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d)-(e); 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d)-(e);
404.1525; 416.925; 404.1526; 416.926.
Listed impairments are so severe they prevent an
individual from performing substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1525(a), 416.925(a);
see 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the "Listings"). If the claimant=s impairment meets
or equals a Listing, the Commissioner must find the claimant disabled, regardless of the claimant=s
age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). Here, the ALJ
found plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically
equaled any Listing. (R. 23).
4. Residual Functional Capacity and Past Relevant Work
If the impairment does not meet or equal the criteria of any Listing, the claimant must
prove her impairment prevents her from performing her past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f); 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step four, the Commissioner "will first compare
[the Commission=s] assessment of [the claimant=s] residual functional capacity ["RFC"] with the
physical and mental demands of [the claimant=s] past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(b),
416.960(b). "Past relevant work is work that [the claimant has] done within the past 15 years, that
was substantial gainful activity, and that lasted long enough for [her] to learn to do it." 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1560(b)(1), 416.960(b)(1). If the claimant is capable of performing her past relevant
work, the Commissioner will find she is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(b)(3);
Here, the ALJ found plaintiff had the RFC to perform the full range of sedentary work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a).
(R. 23, 25-26).
In making this
determination, the ALJ noted plaintiff would be limited to standing and walking no more than two
hours in an eight-hour workday, which was consistent with her testimony that she could do
approximately three hours of housework before experiencing foot pain. (R. 25). The ALJ further
found plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work, which was performed at the medium
and light RFCs. (R. 26).
In concluding plaintiff could perform the full range of sedentary work, the ALJ found
plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms
were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the objective medical evidence and the
RFC for sedentary work. (R. 24). Regarding plaintiff's claims of severe daily migraines, foot
pain, and back pain, the ALJ noted plaintiff's failure to mention these conditions in her disability
report to the state agency and plaintiff's sporadic treatment for these conditions. (R. 24). The
ALJ further noted plaintiff's failure to mention headaches or back pain when she established care
at Birmingham Healthcare in the Fall of 2012. (R. 24). The ALJ also noted the more recent
physical examinations resulted in a "normal" foot exam and revealed no edema in the right foot or
lower extremities. (R. 24). Additionally, the ALJ noted the only mention of headaches in the
record came from a 2008 medical record. (R. 24). Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff's
complaints regarding the severity and effects of headaches and back pain to be less than fully
credible. (R. 24).
The ALJ found plaintiff's diabetes, hypertension, and neuralgia limited her to sedentary
The ALJ found the limitations associated with sedentary work,
including walking and standing for no more than two hours per day, were consistent with plaintiff's
testimony that her foot pain begins after doing approximately three hours of house work. (R. 25).
Regarding plaintiff's obesity, the ALJ found it did not preclude the performance of physical
activities or routine movement consistent with the sedentary RFC. (R. 26). In making this
finding, the ALJ relied on: (1) the normal physical evaluations of plaintiff; (2) plaintiff's failure to
allege limitations due to her obesity; and (3) the lack of obesity-related restrictions placed on
plaintiff by any physician. (R. 26).
The ALJ assigned great weight to the clinical findings and opinions of plaintiff's treating
physicians, noting the findings' internal consistency and consistency with the great weight of
evidence in the record.
The ALJ afforded little weight to the RFC assessment
completed on August 11, 2011, by Dr. Gary Turner, M.D. (R. 26; see R. 249-57). Dr. Turner's
RFC was based on plaintiff's foot wound, which was still healing at the time. (R. 249-57). The
RFC concluded plaintiff could perform light work which avoided the use of foot controls and
could occasionally balance and climb ramps and stairs. (R. 26). Dr. Turner also concluded
plaintiff could frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl but never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds or be exposed to unprotected heights or hazardous machinery. (R. 26). The RFC also
concluded plaintiff should avoid exposure to damp conditions and extreme temperatures. (R. 26,
251). Because the RFC was based on plaintiff's diabetic foot wound, which had healed by the
time of the hearing, the ALJ afforded it little weight. (R. 26). In affording Dr. Turner's light
RFC little weight, the ALJ also noted its failure to account for plaintiff's neuralgia. (R. 26).
5. Other Work in the National Economy
If the claimant establishes her inability to perform her past relevant work, the
Commissioner must show the claimant—in light of her RFC, age, education, and work
experience—is capable of performing other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national
economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(c)(1)-(2); 416.960(c)(1)-(2). If the claimant is not capable of
performing other work, the Commissioner must find the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
Here, the ALJ determined "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that the [plaintiff] can perform." (R. 27). In making this finding, the ALJ relied on: (1)
plaintiff's age of 43 at the alleged onset of disability; (2) plaintiff's limited education and ability to
communicate in English; and (3) the fact that transferability of skills was irrelevant because
plaintiff's past work was unskilled. (R. 26-27). Based on the RFC for the full range of sedentary
work, the ALJ found plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 27).
B. Ms. Carlisle's Claims
Plaintiff contends the ALJ applied improper legal standards and his decision was not
supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 12 at 1). Specifically, plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in
failing to find a period of disability of at least twelve months and in determining the RFC allowing
for the full range of sedentary work. (Doc. 12 at 5-10). Each claim is addressed in turn below.
1. Twelve Month Disability Period
First, plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in not finding her disabled for at least one year.
(Doc. 12 at 5-6). In support, plaintiff relies on Dr. Turner's RFC, which was created on May 21,
2011, but was prospective to May 21, 2012 (one year after plaintiff's first foot surgery). (Doc. 12
at 6). Plaintiff contends the prospective nature of the RFC requires finding her diabetic foot
wound established the twelve month threshold disability period. (Doc. 12 at 6). Plaintiff further
contends the ALJ erred in relying on evidence after the twelve month mark to find Plaintiff was not
disabled for the entire period. (Doc. 12 at 6). Moreover, Plaintiff points to her post-RFC
complaints of worsening foot pain. (Doc. 12 at 6). Plaintiff also notes errors in the record
referring to her disability claim as a child's claim. (Doc. 12 at 6; see, e.g. R. 64, 70).
Plaintiff cites no authority to support her contention that the ALJ erred in failing to find a
twelve month period of disability based on the prospective RFC.
The regulations define
disability 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 months." 20
C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). Dr. Turner's RFC was prospective for one year following plaintiff's first
foot surgery. It projected plaintiff would have the RFC to perform light work as of May 21, 2011,
but does not address plaintiff's ability to work during the twelve months following her first
surgery. Accordingly, the RFC does not establish a twelve month period of disability. Gooden v.
Astrue, No. 08-766, 2010 WL 670558, *4 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 23 2010) (prospective RFC did not
establish disability during intervening period); see Smith v. Colvin, No. 13-294-LSC, 2013 WL
6389520, *6 (N.D. Ala. Dec. 6, 2013) (affirming ALJ's decision and noting lack of legal support
for arguments regarding reliance on prospective RFC to establish a period of disability).
Plaintiff's arguments regarding her subsequent complaints of pain do not establish a twelve
month period of disability. Likewise, plaintiff's complaints regarding the agency's initial denial
of her claim as a child's claim do not warrant reversal. The ALJ plainly evaluated plaintiff's
claims as adult claims, so any error in the agency's denial was harmless.
2. The ALJ's RFC
Next, plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in assigning plaintiff's RFC for sedentary work.
(Doc. 12 at 7-10). Plaintiff contends the ALJ's finding is not supported by substantial evidence
because plaintiff suffered from a number of impairments which would reasonably affect physical
functioning and stamina. (Doc. 12 at 7). Plaintiff contends the ALJ avoided performing a
function-by-function analysis and applied the wrong standard in assessing plaintiff's obesity.
(Doc. 12 at 7-8). In particular, Plaintiff cites the ALJ's findings regarding plaintiff's obesity,
which found plaintiff was obese but concluded she could perform light work because obesity did
not restrict plaintiff. (R. 27). Plaintiff contends this is the wrong standard under SSR 02-1p.
(Doc. 12 at 8). Plaintiff also contends the ALJ did not properly explain how an RFC for sedentary
work would accommodate her conditions and that the ALJ should have considered developing the
record to obtain a medical source opinion and consultative examination when determining her
RFC. (Doc. 12 at 8-9). Plaintiff argues development of the record was particularly needed
because the prospective RFC implied a twelve month period of disability. (Doc. 12 at 10). Each
contention is addressed in turn, below.
First, plaintiff claims the ALJ erred by failing to address all of her impairments and
perform a function-by-function analysis.
However, review of the record reveals the ALJ
discussed all of plaintiff's claimed symptoms and impairments, as well as her medical records.
While the ALJ found plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity and effects of her symptoms to
be less than fully credible due to inconsistencies with the objective medical evidence, he addressed
all of plaintiff's claims. (R. 22-26).
Next, plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to perform a function-by-function assessment. An
ALJ must consider a claimant's medical condition as a whole and express any functional
limitations via exertional levels. S.S.R. 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184 (July 2, 1996); Stinson v.
Colvin, No. 13-1593, 2015 WL 854493, *13-14 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 27, 2015); see Castel v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 355 F. App'x 260, 263 (11th Cir. 2009); Freeman v. Barnhart, 220 F. App'x 957, 959-60
(11th Cir. 2007). "Discussing the claimant's medical record and citing a regulation that defines
the exertional demands of the claimant's RFC satisfies this requirement." Stinson, 2015 WL
854493 at *13-14 (citing Castle, 355 F. App'x at 263; Freeman, 220 F. App'x at 959-60).
the ALJ must consider all of the relevant evidence in assessing a claimant's functional limitations,
"the ALJ is not required to 'specifically refer to every piece of evidence in his decision,' so long as
the decision is sufficient to show that the ALJ considered the claimant's medical condition as a
whole." Stinson, 2015 WL 854493 at *3-4 (quoting Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1211 (11th
Cir. 2005)). Here, after reviewing and discussing the relevant evidence in the record, the ALJ
found plaintiff could perform the full range of sedentary work. (R. 25). The ALJ also cited the
regulation that defines the exertional demands of the sedentary work RFC.
Accordingly, the ALJ complied with Social Security Ruling 96-8p. See Stinson, 2015 WL
854493 at *13-14.
Next, Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to properly account for the effects of her obesity
when calculating her RFC. (Doc. 12 at 8). As plaintiff would have it, the ALJ improperly relied
on the lack of restrictions placed on plaintiff due to her obesity and should have accounted for
limitations that obesity could cause. (Doc. 12 at 8). An ALJ must assess the effects of obesity on
a claimant's abilities and how obesity would combine with other impairments to restrict a claimant.
SSR 02-1p, 2002 WL 34686281 (Sept. 12, 2002). Here, the ALJ found plaintiff's obesity to be a
severe impairment, referred to SSR 02-1p when considering plaintiff's obesity, and found it did not
result in any specific functional limitations. (R. 22, 26). In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ
noted the lack of allegations or evidence of limitations due to obesity. (R. 26). Accordingly, the
ALJ applied the proper legal standards when considering plaintiff's obesity. See Castel, 355 F.
App'x at 264 (obesity properly considered where ALJ found it to be a severe impairment, referred
to SSR 02-1p in the ruling, and found obesity did not "result in any specific functional
limitations"). Moreover, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusions regarding plaintiff's
Plaintiff also contends the ALJ did not explain how limiting her to sedentary work would
accommodate the limitations she alleged. (Doc. 12 at 9). In arguing this point, plaintiff points to
the limitations imposed in Dr. Turner's RFC, including preclusions on working around high
temperatures, moisture, and hazardous environments. (Doc. 12 at 9). As an initial matter, it
must be noted that non-treating sources, such as Dr. Turner's RFC, are not entitled to any special
deference. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1160 (11th Cir. 2004). Here, the
ALJ afforded little weight to Dr. Turner's RFC due to: (1) the RFC's focus on plaintiff's diabetic
foot ulcer—an impairment that no longer affected plaintiff; (2) medical evidence obtained from
treating physicians following Dr. Turner's RFC; and (3) the RFC's failure to account for all of
Specifically, the ALJ noted more recent medical records
indicating plaintiff's diabetic foot wound had healed and found the RFC failed to account for
plaintiff's neuralgia. (R. 26). Accordingly, the ALJ properly discounted the RFC. See Stone v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 544 F. App'x 839, 842 (11th Cir. 2013) ("the ALJ may reject the opinion of
any physician if the evidence supports a contrary conclusion"). Moreover, plaintiff did not prove
additional postural, environmental, and mental limitations. Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272,
1276 (11th Cir. 2003) (plaintiff bears the burden of establishing claim for disability and producing
evidence to support it).
Finally, plaintiff argues the ALJ should have developed the record to obtain a medical
source opinion before assigning an RFC. (Doc. 12 at 9-10). While an ALJ must develop a full
and fair record, "there must be a showing of prejudice before it is found that the claimant's right to
due process has been violated to such a degree that the case must be remanded to the Secretary for
further development of the record." Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1423 (11th Cir. 1997). An
ALJ need not obtain a medical source opinion when the record contains sufficient evidence for the
ALJ to make an "informed decision." Stinson, 2015 WL 854493 at *12 (citing Smith v. Comm'r,
501 F. App'x 875 at 878 (11th Cir. 2012). Moreover, "the lack of [a] medical source statement
will not make the report incomplete." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1513(b)(6); see Langley v. Astrue, 777 F.
Supp. 2d 1250, 1261 (N.D. Ala. 2011). Here, the record was sufficient for the ALJ to make an
informed decision, including internally consistent medical records from plaintiff's treating
physicians. Additionally, plaintiff has not shown the prejudice necessary to reverse the ALJ's
decision based on failure to further develop the record. Accordingly, the record considered by the
ALJ was sufficient and failure to develop it further was not error.
Upon review of the administrative record and considering all of Ms. Carlisle=s arguments,
the court finds the Commissioner=s decision is supported by substantial evidence and is in accord
with the applicable law.
Accordingly, the decision of the Commissioner is due to be
AFFIRMED, and this action DISMISSED.
A separate order will be entered.
DONE this 26th day of March, 2015.
STACI G. CORNELIUS
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?