Jones v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION - For the reasons set forth herein, and upon careful consideration of the administrative record and memoranda of the parties, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Joness claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits is AFFIRMED and this action DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Magistrate Judge John H England, III on 9/18/2017. (KEK)
2017 Sep-18 PM 12:48
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
GINA C. JONES,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Case No.: 3:16-cv-00671-JHE
Plaintiff Gina C. Jones (“Jones”) seeks review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), § 205(g)
of the Social Security Act, of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”), denying her application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Doc. 1). Jones
timely pursued and exhausted her administrative remedies. This case is therefore ripe for review
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The undersigned has carefully considered the record and, for the
reasons stated below, the Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED.
Factual and Procedural History
Jones protectively filed an application for SSI on June 12, 2013, alleging disability
beginning on her filing date. (Tr. 22, 239-240). Jones was a forty-seven year old female on the
date she filed her application.
Jones has a high school education. (Id.).
Commissioner initially denied Jones application, (tr. 140-43), and Jones requested a hearing
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 73, the parties in this case have voluntarily consented to have a United States
Magistrate Judge conduct any and all proceedings, including trial and the entry of final
judgment. (Doc. 12).
before an ALJ, (tr. 145-147). After a hearing, the ALJ denied Jones’s claim on September 12,
2014. (Tr. 41). Jones sought review by the Appeals Council, but it declined her request on
March 16, 2016. (Tr. 1-7). On that date, the ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. On April 26, 2016, Jones initiated this action. (See doc. 1).
Standard of Review2
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, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1422 (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 the proper
In general, the legal standards applied are the same 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 for statutes or regulations found in quoted court
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. 3
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 entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant must provide evidence of 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 sequence:
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 the formerly applicable C.F.R.
section), overruled on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189 F.3d 561, 562-63 (7th Cir. 1999);
The “Regulations” promulgated under the Social Security Act are listed in 20 C.F.R.
Parts 400 to 499, revised as of April 1, 2007.
accord McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). “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 such work exists in the national economy in significant
Findings of the Administrative Law Judge
After consideration of the entire record and application of the sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ made the following findings:
At Step One, the ALJ found Jones had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
June 12, 2013, the alleged onset date of her disability. (Tr. 24). At Step Two, the ALJ found
Jones has the following severe impairments: Type II diabetes mellitus with mild diabetic
peripheral neuropathy, degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine at L4-5, morbid obesity,
fibromyalgia, and an anxiety disorder. (Id.). The ALJ noted that Jones had a history of finger
lacerations and had suffered from sinusitis, headaches, and kidney disease, but none of these
impairments imposed limitations on her ability to perform basic work-related activities;
therefore, they were non-severe. (Tr. 24-27). At Step Three, the ALJ found Jones does 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, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 27).
Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined Jones’s residual functioning
capacity (“RFC”), which is the most a claimant can do despite her impairments. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1). The ALJ determined Jones has the RFC
to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b) except she can
occasionally lift and/or carry 20 pounds and frequently lift and/or carry 10
pounds. She can stand and/or walk in combination, with normal breaks, for at
least 6 hours during an 8-hour workday and sit, with normal breaks, for up to
9 hours during an 8-hour workday. The claimant can occasionally climb
ramps and stairs and she should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
claimant can frequently balance and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl. The claimant should not be required to perform push/pull movements
or operate foot controls with her lower extremities bilaterally. She should
avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, wetness, humidity,
and working in areas of vibration. The claimant should avoid concentrated
exposure to pulmonary irritants including fumes, dusts, gases, odors, and
areas of poor ventilation. The claimant should not be required to work near
industrial hazards including working at unprotected heights, working in close
proximity to moving dangerous machinery, and the operation of motorized
vehicles and equipment. She can perform simple routine tasks requiring no
more than short simple instructions and simple interactions with co -workers
and supervisors, and only occasional interactions with members of the gene ral
(Tr. 29). At Step Four, the ALJ determined Jones had no past relevant work. (Tr. 39). At Step
Five, the ALJ determined, based on Jones’s age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy Jones
could perform. (Tr. 40). Therefore, the ALJ determined Jones has not been under a disability and
denied Jones’s claim. (Tr. 40-41).
Jones raises a single objection to the Commissioner’s decision: that the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate the opinion of Dr. Raynard G. Fabianke, Jones’s treating physician. (Doc. 9 at
4). When determining the weight given to a physician’s opinion, an ALJ considers numerous
factors, including whether the physician examined the claimant, whether the physician treated
the claimant, the evidence the physician presents to support his or her opinion, whether the
physician’s opinion is consistent with the record as a whole, and the physician’s specialty. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). A treating physician’s opinion generally is entitled to substantial or
considerable weight unless “good cause” is shown for discounting that opinion. Winschel v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1179 (11th Cir.2011); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)92).
An ALJ may discount a physician’s opinion, including a treating physician’s opinion, when the
opinion is conclusory, the physician fails to provide objective medical evidence to support his or
her opinion, the opinion is inconsistent with the record as a whole, or the evidence otherwise
supports a contrary finding. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c).
Additionally, opinions on some issues, such as whether the claimant is unable to work,
the claimant’s RFC, and the application of vocational factors, “are not medical opinions, . . . but
are, instead, opinions on issues reserved to the Commissioner because they are administrative
findings that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the determination or decision of
disability.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d); see SSR96-5p, 1996 WL 374183 (1996). Thus, although
physicians’ opinions about what a claimant can still do or the claimant’s restrictions are relevant
evidence, such opinions are not determinative because the ALJ has the responsibility of assessing
the claimant’s RFC. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(b)(2), 404.1513(b)(6), 404.1527(d)(2),
404.1545(a)(3), 404.1546(c); SSR 96-5p.
Here, the ALJ appropriately considered Dr.
Fabianke’s opinion, and her decision to assign it little weight is supported by substantial
In her opinion, the ALJ discussed numerous visits Jones made to Dr. Fabianke, beginning
on May 14, 2012, when Dr. Fabianke admitted her to Red Bay Hospital after she presented with
a recent history of syncope, chest pain, severe headache, generalized weakness and lethargy, and
diabetes mellitus poorly controlled. (Tr. 30, 363). Jones’s initial chemistry profile was normal
apart from her glucose levels, which had increased to 305. (Id. at 30). Jones’s medications were
adjusted, and Januvia was added to her regimen. (Id.). She was then discharged on May 19,
2012, with diagnoses of syncope with change in neurological status, variable control diabetes,
and hyperglycemia. (Id.). A visit to Dr. Fabianke on August 22, 2012, disclosed Jones was not
following the 1500 calorie ADA diet, not taking Januvia, and had lost her blood sugar monitor.
The ALJ next discussed Jones’s visit to Dr. Fabianke on April 3, 2013, a general
examination at which Jones’s chief complaint was uncontrolled blood sugar; she reported her
glucose levels had mostly been greater than 200. (Tr. 31, 527). Jones’s medications were again
adjusted. (Tr. 31). At Dr. Fabianke’s request, Jones saw Dr. Rajesh Boorgu on May 9, 2013, for
a new evaluation due to elevated protein. (Tr. 31). Dr. Boorgu found +1 pitting edema in
Jones’s lower extremities, but no other abnormalities. (Tr. 31, 507). He prescribed Cozaar. (Tr.
31). At a follow-up visit to Dr. Boorgu, Jones reported that she was tolerating the Cozaar, that
she was managing her blood sugar better, and that her feet were hurting but she was doing “ok.”
(Tr. 31, 503-04).
Jones saw Dr. Fabianke again on May 17, 2013, presenting with increased back and leg
pain which she described as constant and moderate. (Tr. 34, 524). Jones’s general health was
good, her diet was balanced, and she had no compliance problems. (Id.).
examination showed her gait and mobility to be within normal limits, and a lumbar spine
examination revealed lower midline paraspinous muscle tenderness, some increased pain with
motion, and some decreased range of motion without peripheral deficits. (Tr. 34, 526). Dr.
Fabianke prescribed Percocet, Zanaflex, and Lyrica. (Tr. 34). At a routine follow-up visit to Dr.
Fabianke on June 28, 2013, Jones was noted to have generally good health, occasional exercise,
a balanced diet, no associated symptoms, and no compliance problems. (Tr. 32, 34, 514). Jones
had a steady gait and a musculoskeletal exam revealed a normal range of motion. (Tr. 34, 514).
Jones returned for another routine visit to Dr. Fabianke on October 7, 2013, seeking to refill her
medications. (Tr. 34, 554). Jones had good health, a balanced diet, and no associated symptoms.
(Tr. 554). She reported moderate back pain of an unknown duration, fluctuating in intensity and
increasing with motion. (Tr. 34, 554). Jones saw Dr. Fabianke again on December 9, 2013,
complaining of a cough and seeking refills. (Tr. 34, 551). As with her May 17, 2013 visit Dr.
Fabianke noted lower midline paraspinous muscle tenderness, some increased pain with motion,
and decreased range of motion without peripheral deficits. (Tr. 34, 552).
On December 16, 2013, at the request of Jones’s attorney, Dr. Fabianke completed a
questionnaire in which he stated he believed Jones’s complaints of moderately severe to severe
fatigue and malaise were credible. (Tr. 32, 34, 581). Dr. Fabianke further stated Jones could not
sustain any type of job for a normal work week of eight hours per day and forty hours per week
at any exertional level, that Jones would miss at least five days per month from work due to her
medical problems, and that she would require frequent breaks during the work day due to severe
pain in her right shoulder, back legs, and feet. (Tr. 32, 34, 581-82). Dr. Fabianke opined Jones
would not be able to climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, and could not
perform a job that would require her to stand or walk for two hours in a work day, sit for six
hours in a work day, or even occasionally lift over ten pounds. (Tr. 32, 34, 582).
Following the completion of the questionnaire, Jones saw Dr. Fabianke several additional
times, including an April 14, 2014, visit for a routine follow-up and for medication refills. (Tr.
32, 629). Again, Jones’s general health was good, her diet was balanced, and she had no
compliance problems. (Id.).
After considering the evidence in the record, the ALJ assigned little weight to Dr.
Fabianke’s questionnaire. (Tr. 39). The ALJ stated that, “[e]ven though Dr. Fabianke is the
claimant’s treating physician, the record clearly indicates that he saw her primarily for routine
office visits and for ongoing medication refills, and his opinion is contrary to his own medical
records, diagnostic and laboratory test results, evidence of medical noncompliance, and with the
other substantive medical evidence of record indicating no coronary artery disease, mild to
moderate lumbar disease, noncompliance with her insulin regimen, and apparent total resolution
of her kidney problems.” (Id.).
The ALJ’s decision to assign little weight to Dr. Fabianke’s opinion was supported by
substantial evidence. Many of Dr. Fabianke’s statements in the questionnaire concern matters
reserved for the Commissioner and were not entitled to any special significance notwithstanding
they were supplied by a treating physician. Specifically, Dr. Fabianke’s opinion Jones could not
sustain any job for a normal work week at any exertional level, (see tr. 581), is effectively a
determination Jones is disabled; therefore, it was not entitled to any particular weight. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.927(d)(1), (3). Dr. Fabianke’s opinions as to Jones’s functional ability to perform
physical work tasks, (see tr. 582-83), attempt to supply an RFC, and were likewise entitled to no
specific weight. See Pate v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 678 F. App'x 833, 834 (11th Cir. 2017)
(noting that the final responsibility for determining, inter alia, a claimant’s RFC is reserved to
the Commissioner); 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d)(2), (3).
As the ALJ stated, Dr. Fabianke’s notes do not support the disability his opinion
attributes to fatigue and malaise due to diabetes. Instead, following Jones’s alleged onset date,
Dr. Fabianke’s notes show no constitutional symptoms and a normal range of motion on June 28,
2013, (tr. 514-17); weakness, but a normal range of motion, on August 30, 2013, (tr. 558-61); no
constitutional symptoms apart from fever on September 2, 2013, (tr. 670-73); no constitutional
symptoms, but a decreased range of motion without peripheral deficits, on October 7, 2013, (tr.
554-57); no fatigue, malaise, or acute changes to Jones’s musculoskeletal structure and
extremities on October 28, 2013, (an emergency room visit for a toothache) (tr. 683-84); no
constitutional symptoms, but a decreased range of motion without peripheral deficits, on
December 9, 2013, (tr. 550-53); no constitutional symptoms, but a decreased range of motion
without peripheral deficits, on January 20, 2014, (tr. 584-87); no constitutional symptoms, but a
decreased range of motion without peripheral deficits, on March 4, 2014, (tr. 637-40); no
constitutional symptoms, but a decreased range of motion without peripheral deficits, on March
24, 2014, (tr. 633-36); and weakness with a decreased range of motion without peripheral
deficits on April 14, 2014, (tr. 629-32). While these notes support some limitation in Jones’s
physical abilities, there was substantial evidence for the ALJ to conclude they do not support that
those limitations were produced by weakness, fatigue, or malaise (which Jones only reported on
two of these ten occasions she sought treatment from Dr. Fabianke, and which only once
coincided with a decreased range of motion) or were as severe as those suggested by Dr.
Fabianke. Additionally, test results from other physicians during the same period showed a
normal range of motion. (See tr. 609-10 (“moves all extremities well” noted by Dr. Brad
McAnalley in March 7, 2014 observation report); 686-87 (no constitutional issues and full range
of motion in all extremities noted by Dr. John Looney at February 11, 2014 ER visit for
epigastric pain)). These inconsistencies provided good cause for the ALJ to assign little weight
to Dr. Fabianke’s opinion.
Jones first attacks the ALJ’s findings by challenging the ALJ’s consideration of Dr.
Fabianke’s treating relationship with Jones, rhetorically inquiring what else beyond routine
office visits and medication refills could comprise a relationship with a treating physician. (Doc.
9 at 6). It was not improper for the ALJ to consider the purpose of Jones’s visits to Dr. Fabianke
and the treatment she received there. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2)(ii) (noting the ALJ “look[s]
at the treatment the source has provided and at the kinds and extent of examinations and testing
the source has performed”). Jones offers no reason why the ALJ’s decision—guided by the
regulations—to factor the generally routine nature of the office visits into his overall assessment
of the severity of the symptoms Dr. Fabianke described in the questionnaire was erroneous.
Jones complains Dr. Fabianke’s opinion was given little weight in part due to the absence
of “other medical evidence of record indicating no coronary artery disease, mild to moderate
lumbar disease, noncompliance with her insulin regimen, and apparent total resolution of her
kidney problems.” (Doc. 9 at 8). She characterizes the references to coronary artery disease and
kidney problems as “nonsensical,” as Dr. Fabianke never expressed an opinion as to those
conditions. (Id.). She also seems to argue Dr. Fabianke’s references to the “severe pain in right
shoulder, back, legs, and feet” that would require frequent breaks at work was necessarily a
reference to diabetes rather than lumbar disease, as her “disability case primarily centers around
her uncontrolled insulin dependent diabetes mellitus” and Dr. Fabianke listed diabetes on (and
omitted lumbar disease from) a short statement regarding Jones’s medical conditions. (Id.). If
this is an allegation of error on the part of the ALJ, it is not clear why or how dismissing
alternative impairments (some of which Jones herself alleged to be disabling, (see tr. 240), and
some of which the ALJ separately determined to be severe impairments, (see tr. 24)) as potential
bases for Dr. Fabianke’s decision renders the ALJ’s decision unsupported by substantial
Jones appears to argue that because the records of her visits with Dr. Fabianke are
“computer generated” and contain “nothing . . . changed in [Jones’s] ‘History of Present
Illness,’” they are not actually evidence of Dr. Fabianke’s assessment. (Doc. 9 at 7-8).
support of this contention, she cites the fact that on April 14, 2014, “someone at Dr. Fabianke’s
office put a line through medications Jones was not taking at the time.” (Id.). She also suggests
that whenever “Dr. Fabianke had a chance to actually write something regarding Jones’
functional status with his own hand, he did so,” pointing to the December 16, 2013 questionnaire.
Crediting this argument would require the undersigned to conjecture that only Dr.
Fabianke’s handwritten treatment notes are reliable and second-guess the ALJ’s decision to view
the typed notes as inconsistent with Dr. Fabianke’s questionnaire. This is incompatible with the
court’s role in reviewing a Social Security appeal; a reviewing court is explicitly forbidden to
reweigh the evidence. Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239. Additionally, the assertion that nothing
changed in the “History of Present Illness” section of the records between visits is contradicted
by the records’ content, which in fact differs from encounter to encounter. (Compare, e.g., tr.
514 (June 28, 2013 visit noting, inter alia, “Exercise: occasional”) with tr. 524 (May 17, 2013
visit noting, inter alia, “Exercise: none”)).
Jones also argues in determining Dr. Fabianke’s opinion was contrary to his medical
records, diagnostic and laboratory test results, the ALJ wrongly stated she was noncompliant
with her diet or treatment. (Doc. 9 at 6-7). She bases this contention on treatment notes from her
August 22, 2012 visit to Dr. Fabianke, which state:
T/C FSBS 293 Current Rx Glyburide 5mg # one tab aid
Not following 1500 Cal ADA Diet not taking Januvia 100 mg c/o nausea
Pt lost bs meter Medicaid will not cover per pt — patient instructed to make
an apt to discuss options w Dr. Fabianke – 8/24/12 11:00
(Tr. 426). Jones states this is the only time she was noncompliant with her diet and that the ALJ
failed to inquire into an alternative reason for Jones’s noncompliance with her medication:
noncoverage by Medicaid of either Januvia or Jones’s blood sugar meter. (Doc. 9 at 7). She also
argues the ALJ’s opinion was self-contradictory in that it acknowledges Dr. Fabianke’s notes
that Jones had no compliance problems on several visits but nevertheless stated Jones was
noncompliant with her insulin regimen. (Id. at 8). Jones is incorrect that the August 22, 2012
visit was the only instance of dietary noncompliance, because the record indicates at least one
(See tr. 527 (noting on April 3, 2013 visit “Compliance problems: diet”).
However, the evidence is ambiguous as to whether Jones offered a legitimate explanation for
either her failure to test her blood sugar due to her lost monitor or her failure to take Januvia.
Even if the ALJ’s failure to resolve this ambiguity was error, it was harmless; even excepting
this instance, the record still contains evidence of dietary noncompliance, which the ALJ
discussed, and which support the conclusion Jones was medically noncompliant. Additionally,
the ALJ’s decision to assign little weight to Dr. Fabianke’s opinion was not based on the specific
instance of noncompliance Jones cites as ambiguous, and the ALJ provided a number of
additional reasons for discounting Dr. Fabianke’s opinion. See Loveless v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 678 F. App'x 866, 869 (11th Cir. 2017) (factual error in assessing medical opinion
harmless when it was not the basis for the ALJ’s decision and additional reasons to discount
Finally, Jones objects to the ALJ’s discussion of evidence inconsistent with Dr.
Fabianke’s opinion that predates June 12, 2013, Jones’s alleged date of disability, taking
particular issue with the ALJ’s discussion of the opinion of Dr. Laura M. Lindsey. (Doc. 9 at 9).
As a general matter, “[m]edical opinions that predate the alleged onset of disability are of limited
relevance.” Simpson v. Colvin, No. 2:14-CV-00946-AKK, 2015 WL 139329, at *4 (N.D. Ala.
Jan. 12, 2015) (quoting Carmickle v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin, 533 F.3d 1155, 1165 (9th Cir.
2008)). However, they may be of some relevance in some cases: for example, when they relate
to the conditions a claimant claims are disabling. See Hamlin v. Astrue, No. 3:07-CV-507-JTEM, 2008 WL 4371326, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 19, 2008) (“Although here the medical records
covered a period of time prior to Plaintiff's alleged onset date, the records do concern many of
the same impairments Plaintiff claims as a basis for disability.”). In this case, Jones offers no
authority for the proposition that considering such evidence automatically requires reversal, nor
would it be appropriate in this case to do so given the evidence considered by the ALJ tracked
the progress of Jones’s diabetes and relationship with Dr. Fabianke.
Jones’s contentions regarding Dr. Laura Lindsey’s examination are problematic for other
reasons. Dr. Laura Lindsey performed a consultative examination of Jones on November 15,
2012, which found that Jones was not limited by her physical conditions. (Tr. 499). Jones
argues the ALJ assigned this opinion no actual weight by stating only that she “substantially
considered” the opinion. (Doc. 9 at 10-11). However, Jones ignores that there are in fact two
different physicians named “Dr. Lindsey” who appear in the record, only one of whose opinions
was “substantially considered” by the ALJ: Dr. James B. Lindsey, who performed a
psychological consultative evaluation of Jones on November 15, 2012. (Tr. 35, 39, 490-94).
Not only did the ALJ specifically state she was relying on Dr. James Lindsey’s opinion regarding
Jones’s mental health, she also referenced the exhibit containing the psychological evaluation.
(Tr. 39 (citing Exhibit 9F)). While Dr. James Lindsey’s opinion also predates the date of
disability, Jones makes no argument the ALJ’s conclusions regarding her mental health were
erroneous. To the extent Jones claims the ALJ relied on Dr. Laura Lindsey to discredit Dr.
Fabianke, there is no evidence for this in the record and no reversible error as a result.4
As the Commissioner notes, the ALJ did not specifically assign weight to Dr. Laura
Lindsey’s opinion. (Doc. 10 at 15). Nor did she discuss Dr. Laura Lindsey’s opinion beyond
For the reasons set forth herein, and upon careful consideration of the administrative
record and memoranda of the parties, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying Jones’s claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits is AFFIRMED
and this action DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
DONE this 18th day of September, 2017.
JOHN H. ENGLAND, III
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
noting its existence in summarizing the medical record. Thus, her findings do not appear to have
affected the ultimate determination of the case, and any error that resulted from failing to assign
weight to the opinion was harmless. Hunter v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F. App'x 555, 558 (11th
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