Turner v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 10/24/2014. (PSM)
2014 Oct-24 AM 10:49
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF
Civil Action Number
Plaintiff Charlotte Lavett Turner brings this action pursuant to Section
205(g) of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review
of the final adverse decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”). This court finds that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) applied the correct legal standard and that her decision—which has
become the decision of the Commissioner—is supported by substantial evidence.
Therefore, the court affirms the decision denying benefits.
I. Procedural History
Turner protectively filed her application for Title XVI Supplemental
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Security Income, (R. 120–24), on March 25, 2010, alleging a disability onset date
of January 1, 1999, (R. 120), which she subsequently amended to January 31,
2009, (R. 22), due to diabetes, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, rod in left
leg, nerve damage in leg and feet, multiple car accidents, hip replacement, asthma,
and hepatitis, (R. 162). After the SSA denied her applications on March 23, 2011,
(R. 72–76), Turner requested a hearing, (R. 77–79). At the time of the hearing on
June 8, 2012, Turner was forty-six years old, (R. 47), had an eleventh-grade
education, id., and had past medium unskilled work as a cook helper, (R. 64).
Turner has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 25, 2010, the
date of her application for benefits, (R. 24).
The ALJ denied Turner’s claim on July 2, 2012, (R. 19–34), which became
the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council refused to grant
review on September 24, 2013, (R. 1–6). Turner then filed this action pursuant to
section 1631 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). Doc. 1.
II. Standard of Review
The only issues before this court are whether the record contains substantial
evidence to sustain the ALJ’s decision, see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Walden v.
Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards, see Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988);
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Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). Title 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
and 1383(c) mandate that the Commissioner’s “factual findings are conclusive if
supported by ‘substantial evidence.’” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529
(11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not reconsider the facts, reevaluate the
evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it must
review the final decision as a whole and determine if the decision is “reasonable
and supported by substantial evidence.” See id. (citing Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Substantial evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a
preponderance of evidence; “[i]t is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Martin, 849 F.2d at 1529
(quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other citations omitted). If supported by
substantial evidence, the court must affirm the Commissioner’s factual findings
even if the preponderance of the evidence is against the Commissioner’s findings.
See Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. While the court acknowledges that judicial review
of the ALJ’s findings is limited in scope, it notes that the review “does not yield
automatic affirmance.” Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.
III. Statutory and Regulatory Framework
To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show “the inability to
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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. § 423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(I)(A). A physical or
mental impairment is “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological,
or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrated by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).
Determination of disability under the Act requires a five step analysis. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(f). Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in
whether the claimant is currently unemployed;
whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
whether the impairment meets or equals one listed by the Secretary;
whether the claimant is unable to perform his or her past work; and
whether the claimant is unable to perform any work in the national
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). “An affirmative
answer to any of the above questions leads either to the next question, or, on steps
three and five, to a finding of disability. A negative answer to any question, other
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than step three, leads to a determination of ‘not disabled.’” Id. at 1030 (citing 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)-(f)). “Once a finding is made that a claimant cannot return to
prior work the burden shifts to the Secretary to show other work the claimant can
do.” Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).
IV. The ALJ’s Decision
In performing the Five Step sequential analysis, the ALJ initially
determined that Turner had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since she
applied for benefits and therefore met Step One. (R. 24). Next, the ALJ
acknowledged that Turner’s severe impairments of insulin dependent diabetes
mellitus, hypertension, obesity, status post right hip arthoplasty in 1998, status
post open reduction and internal fixation for a left lower leg fracture,
depression/anxiety, and a history of drug and alcohol abuse met Step Two. Id. The
ALJ then proceeded to the next step and found that Turner did not satisfy Step
Three since she “does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments . . . .” Id. Although the
ALJ answered Step Three in the negative, consistent with the law, see McDaniel,
800 F.2d at 1030, the ALJ proceeded to Step Four, where she determined that
has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as
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defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except [that she] can frequently lift and
carry up to 10 pounds; that she can stand and walk for 2 hours and sit
for 6 hours during an eight hour workday; that she needs a sit/stand
option with the ability to alternate between sitting and standing every
30 minutes; that she cannot do any pushing or pulling with the right
lower extremity; that she can do occasional postural movements, such
as balancing, stooping, kneeling, etc.; that she cannot do any
repetitive bending or twisting at the waist; that she needs work that
does not involve exposure to polluted environments, respiratory
irritants, or temperature extremes; and that she needs work that does
not involve any close cooperation or interactions with coworkers or
the general public and does not demand close supervision.
(R. 25). In light of Turner’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ
determined that Turner was unable to perform any past relevant work because she
“cannot perform her past relevant work with the restrictions” in her RFC. (R. 30).
Lastly, in Step Five, the ALJ considered Turner’s age, education, work experience,
and RFC, and determined, based on the Medical Vocational Guidelines found in
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, sections 201.18 and 201.24 and on the
testimony of a vocational expert, that “there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that [Turner] can perform.” (R. 30). Because the
ALJ answered Step Five in the negative, she determined that Turner was not
Turner contends that the ALJ erred by 1) failing to take Turner’s
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psychological impairments into account when determining Turner’s RFC; 2)
rejecting Dr. Thomas Tenbrunsel’s opinion regarding Turner’s functional
limitations and failing to recontact Dr. Tenbrunsel for clarification of his opinion;
3) rejecting Dr. Prem Gulati’s opinion that Turner is unable to work; and 4) failing
to obtain another consultative examination. The court will examine each
contention in turn.
A. The ALJ properly considered Turner’s psychological impairments when
determining Turner’s RFC.
Turner seems to argue that the ALJ failed to consider Turner’s
psychological impairments when determining Turner’s RFC. Doc. 7. More
specifically, Turner contends that while determining whether Turner’s
psychological impairments met or medically equaled a listed impairment at Step
Two of the Five Step sequential analysis, the ALJ determined that Turner’s
depression, anxiety, and history of substance abuse were “‘severe’ impairments
within the meaning of the regulations, which have resulted in a mild restriction of
daily living activities, moderate difficulty with maintaining social functioning, and
mild difficulty with maintaining concentration, persistence and pace,” (R. 24),
“[a]s the ALJ herself observed, these findings do not amount to a mental [RFC,]
which requires a more detailed analysis,” doc. 9 at 7. Turner seems to contend
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that, in spite of this observation regarding the sufficiency of her findings at Step
Two, the ALJ’s consideration of Turner’s psychological impairments when
determining Turner’s RFC was limited to “stat[ing] that [the ALJ’s] RFC findings
reflect this [i.e. the Step Two] analysis,” and that consequently “this finding alone
was insufficient to meet the requirements of the Social Security Administration’s
rules and regulations.” Id.
Turner’s argument regarding the ALJ’s RFC analysis fails to account for a
significant portion of the ALJ’s opinion. At Step Four of the Five Step sequential
analysis, the ALJ found that Turner’s “allegations regarding panic attacks and
seeing and hearing things that are not there are . . . not supported by the medical
evidence of record.” (R. 28). The ALJ noted that, following a consultative
examination conducted on February 11, 2011, Dr. Tenbrunsel, a psychologist:
diagnosed [Turner] as having a major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe,
possibly with psychotic features from time to time; panic anxiety with
agoraphobia; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), combined
type; and the need to rule out below average or borderline intellectual
functioning. He stated that she may have difficulty with maintaining
employment; understanding, remembering and carrying out instructions;
and responding appropriately to supervisors and coworkers.
(R. 29). The ALJ continued, stating that:
The undersigned finds that the opinion of Dr. Tenbrunsel is not
entitled to any evidentiary weight. Dr. Tenbrunsel assessed the claimant as
having severe depression, anxiety with panic and agoraphobia, and ADHD.
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However, a review of the record does not show any previous mental health
treatment for any impairments. Dr. Gulati did not observe any depression
when he examined the claimant the day before the examination by Dr.
Tenbrunsel. Furthermore, the claimant did not mention having any
problems with depression or anxiety to Dr. Gulati. The records of the
Community Free Clinic and Birmingham Health Care show no treatment
for, nor complaints of, any depression, anxiety, or any other type of mental
impairment. The claimant’s daily living activities are also inconsistent with
the assessment of Dr. Tenbrunsel. In particular, the claimant stated in her
“Function Report” that her ability to follow written and spoken instructions
is “good.” She further stated that she “can pay attention as long as it takes.”
She also stated that she watches television and reads, activities which
require a degree of concentration. She also stated that she goes for walks
with her sister, goes shopping with her sister, and attends church, activities
which are inconsistent with a diagnosis of agoraphobia.
Id. As the preceding excerpt indicates, the ALJ did not merely state that Turner’s
RFC reflected the ALJ’s analysis of Turner’s psychological impairments at Step
Two of the Five Step sequential analysis. Rather, she assessed the record and
determined it did not support Turner’s claims of debilitating mental illness. See
e.g., Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1212 (11th Cir. 2005) (finding that the ALJ
properly discredited the plaintiff’s statements regarding his subjective symptoms
because they were inconsistent with his account of his daily activities and his
medical records). In sum, the ALJ properly considered Turner’s psychological
impairments when determining Turner’s RFC.
Moreover, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s failure to include
limitations related to Turner’s psychological impairments in Turner’s RFC beyond
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those she discerned at Step Two. The sole evidence in the record indicating that
Turner suffers from psychological impairments are Turner’s hearing testimony1
and Dr. Tenbrunsel’s examination, diagnoses, and opinion regarding Turner’s
limitations, described above. Turner’s hearing testimony regarding her
hallucinations and panic attacks are vague, at best, and, as the ALJ correctly noted,
her credibility is undermined by numerous inconsistencies between her account of
her symptoms and limitations and the record as a whole. (R. 27–28); see also
Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1226 (stating that when an ALJ rejects a
claimant’s “subjective testimony, [he must] articulat[e] in detail  the contrary
evidence as his reasons for doing so”). More dispositively, after conducting an
independent review of the record, the court concludes that it neither supports
Turner’s seeming claims of disability psychological impairment nor the degree of
At the hearing, Turner testified that “I go outside and stuff, but I can only be out there
for so long before I start hearing voices and stuff,” adding later that she sometimes sees things as
well, and that she also hears and sees things indoors, but “not as bad as I do outside.” (R. 52, 53).
Turner and the ALJ also had the following exchange regarding Turner’s panic attacks:
Q: Tell me what that means. What’s a panic attack?
A: It’s just that I have them. I don’t know why, you know?
Q: And what happens when you have a panic attack? What’s the feeling?
A: Just scary, just real scary.
Q: What do you do when you get a panic attack? What’s the best thing to do?
A: Well, I call my sister. I always call my sister, and she’ll talk to me on the phone
or something and tell me to calm down. She talked me down out of it.
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impairment opined by Dr. Tenbrunsel.
In conjunction with her application for benefits, Turner prepared a function
report, in which she described taking daily walks with her sister (R. 139),
embarking on weekly shopping trips with her sister (R. 142), and spending time
with family members and attending church twice a week, (R. 143). She reported
that she enjoys reading and watching television, and that she reads more than she
watches television. Id. Most tellingly, she reported no difficulty getting along with
authority figures, family, friends, neighbors, or others, that she can pay attention
as long as necessary, and that her ability to follow written and verbal instructions
is good. (R. 144, 145). Turner’s sister, Gail Foster, completed a contemporaneous,
virtually identical third party function report, which contained the same statements
about Turner’s daily activities, hobbies, and her ability to get along with others,
maintain attention, and follow instructions. (R. 150–57). These reports are critical
because they indicate that, to the extent Turner’s accounts of hallucinations and
panic attacks are credible, the conditions do not prevent her from engaging in
normal activities and because they undermine Dr. Tenbrunsel’s opinion that
Turner may have difficulty “understanding, remembering, and carrying out
instruction; and responding appropriately to supervisors and co-workers,” see (R.
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Similarly, Turner’s medical records contain no indication that she suffers
from a significant psychological impairment. Simply put, the record contains no
evidence that Turner has ever received mental health treatment or that any medical
provider has ever prescribed psychiatric medication to her. In her disability
application, Turner stated that she received treatment at the “Mental Health
Center” from 1980 until 1986, (R. 167), but the Mental Health Center of Madison
County was unable to produce any records associated with her treatment, (R.
235).2 She told the Alabama Disability Determination Service examiner that she
received treatment for bipolar disorder while living at the Lovelady Transitional
Center in early 2010 following her incarceration, but the medical records
associated with her stay at Lovelady contain no indication that she was treated for
mental health issues.3 Although Turner testified that The Community Free Health
Clinic, where she has received her most recent medical care, does not treat mental
It appears that the Mental Health Center may not have retained records from the period
in question. See (R. 235) (“We have no records for the dates of service you requested.”).
These records, like the record as a whole, contain no indication that Turner received
mental health treatment or that a medical professional prescribed her psychiatric medication. See
generally (R. 195–207). At one office visit during this period, when filling out a form asking her
to check all applicable conditions, she checked “asthma,” “high blood pressure,” “vision
problems,” “severe headaches,” “arthritis,” “hepatitis,” and “diabetes,” but not “depression” or
“mental illness,” (R. 203), and denied feeling “down, depressed or hopeless,” or “little interest or
pleasure in doing things” during the preceding two weeks, (R. 204). Most of the treatment notes
from Lovelady are illegible, but in them, the space for noting psychological observations are
either empty, (R. 205, 207), or indicated that the provider had conducted an examination and
made normal observations, (R. 206) (noting that P was “alert”).
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health problems, she testified that she had discussed her psychological issues with
its staff. (R. 61). Nonetheless, the only indication of psychological distress in
Turner’s records from the clinic, (R. 275–79), is a notation that on one particular
visit, Turner felt “nervousness,”(R. 279). Records generated in conjunction with
three visits to Huntsville Hospital’s Emergency Room, (R. 208–33; 291–343), are
similarly devoid of any allegations of current mental illness4 or psychological
Finally, Dr. Gulati, who examined Turner on February 21, 2011, one day
prior to her examination by Dr. Tenbrunsel, made no mention in his report of any
psychological impairments.6 Although Turner provided Dr. Gulati with a detailed
medical history and account of her current impairments, she appears to have made
During a August 10, 2010 emergency room visit, Turner reported that she took
medications for bipolar disorder when she was fourteen years old. (R. 229).
Turner sought treatment at Huntsville Hospital’s Emergency Room after falling and
cutting her leg, (September 16, 2011, see (R. 298)), for back pain, (September 8, 2010, see (R.
304)), and for chronic pain and a shoulder laceration, (August 10, 2010, see (R. 309)).
Turner faults the ALJ for “fail[ing] to explain why she relied on Dr. Gulati’s report for
one purpose and not for the purpose for which it was obtained.” Doc. 9 at 9. It appears that
Turner takes issue with the ALJ using the inconsistency between Dr. Gulati’s report and Dr.
Tenbrunsel’s report to discredit the later. Id. Because, as explained above, the inconsistency
between the two reports was only one of many inconsistencies between Dr. Tenbrunsel’s report
and the record as a whole, and because an “ALJ may reject the opinion of any physician when the
evidence supports a contrary conclusion,” McCloud v. Barnhart, 166 F. App’x 410, 418 (11th
Cir. 2006) (citing Bloodsworth , 703 F.2d at 1240), so long as the ALJ “state[s] with particularity
the weight he gives to different medical opinions,” id. (citing Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.3d 278,
279 (11th Cir. 1987)), as the ALJ did here, it is unsurprising that Turner fails to cite to any legal
authority indicating that the ALJ erred on this point.
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no mention of experiencing psychological problems. (R. 237). Similarly, although
Dr. Gulati conducted a thorough examination, he observed no psychological
distress. (R. 238–39). This is somewhat remarkable, since the following day,
Turner provided Dr. Tenbrunsel with an account of her medical history and current
impairments and displayed a range of symptoms that led Dr. Tenbrunsel to
diagnose Turner with several psychological conditions and assign her a
corresponding degree of functional limitation. (R. 241–43).
In the final analysis, the ALJ properly considered Turner’s psychological
impairments when determining Turner’s RFC. Moreover, because Turner’s
medical records simply contain no evidence that she suffered from psychological
impairments during the disability period, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
decision only to impose the restrictions on Turner’s RFC that the ALJ discerned at
Step Two of the Five Step sequential analysis. As the court explained in Part II,
substantial evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a preponderance of
evidence, and, if supported by substantial evidence, the court must affirm the
Commissioner’s factual findings even if the preponderance of the evidence is
against the Commissioner’s findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. The evidence
has reached that threshold here.
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B. The ALJ properly rejected Dr. Tenbrunsel’s opinion regarding Turner’s
functional limitations and did not err by failing to recontact Dr. Tenbrunsel for
clarification of his opinion.
Turner next contends that the ALJ erred by rejecting Dr. Tenbrunsel’s
opinion. As explained above, Dr. Tenbrunsel opined that Turner “may have
difficulty maintaining employment7 ; understanding, remembering, and carrying
out instructions; and responding appropriately to supervisors and co-workers.” (R.
243). As a preliminary matter, Turner’s argument is partially undermined because
the ALJ did include restrictions in Turner’s RFC that reflect Dr. Tenbrunsel’s
opinion with regard to his concern about Turner’s ability to interact appropriately
with supervisors and coworkers, namely that “[Turner] needs work that does not
involve any close cooperation or interactions with coworkers or the general public
and does not demand close supervision.” (R. 25). As to Dr. Tenbrunsel’s
remaining opinion regarding Turner’s ability to understand, remember, and carry
out instructions, the ALJ did not err by disregarding it for two reasons. First,
although statements from acceptable medical sources about a claimant’s functional
limitations are relevant evidence, they are not determinative as the ALJ is
A medical source’s opinion that a patient may be unable to work is an opinion on an
issue reserved to the Commissioner, and not entitled to any special significance. 20 C.F.R. §
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responsible for assessing a claimant’s RFC. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.913(b)(6);
416.927; 416.946(c). Second, as explained at length in Part V.A., Dr. Tenbrunsel’s
stark diagnoses and opinions regarding Turner’s functional capacity are
inconsistent with the record as a whole.8 Most tellingly, Dr. Tenbrunsel’s opinion
that Turner may be unable to understand, remember, and carry out instructions is
flatly contradicted by the functional reports prepared by Turner and her sister, in
which they indicated that Turner’s ability to follow written and verbal instruction
is “good” and that she can maintain attention for as long as necessary. (R. 145,
155); see also Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1241 (11th Cir. 2004) (finding
that an ALJ properly afforded little weight to a treating physician’s9 opinion when
it was inconsistent with a claimant’s own account of her daily activities). In sum,
contrary to Turner’s contention, Turner’s RFC is consistent with much of Dr.
Tenbrunsel’s opinion, and the part of Dr. Tenbrunsel’s opinion that the ALJ
rejected was inconsistent with Turner’s own statements about her function
Finally, as related to Dr. Tenbrunsel, Turner contends that the ALJ should
The report of the state agency psychologist, (R. 249–62), was apparently based on Dr.
Tenbrunsel’s report and echoes its diagnoses and limitations. The ALJ correctly disregarded it for
this reason and, because Dr. Tenbrunsel’s report is inconsistent with the record, as explained
above, the court does as well.
Generally, a treating physician is entitled to more deference than a consulting physician,
such as Dr. Tenbrunsel. 20 C.F.R. 404.1527(c)(2).
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have recontacted Dr. Tenbrunsel for clarification of his opinion. Doc. 9 at 8.
However, pursuant to new regulations, which were in effect at the time of Turner’s
hearing and the ALJ’s decision10 , the decision whether to recontact a treating
source is now entirely within the discretion of the ALJ. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920b(c)(1). Simply put, the ALJ was under no obligation to recontact Dr.
C. The ALJ properly rejected Dr. Gulati’s opinion that Turner is unable to work
Turner contends that the ALJ erred by rejecting Dr. Gulati’s opinion that
Turner is unable to work. Doc. 8 at 9–11. In his report, Dr. Gulati stated that “[i]t
is my impression that [Turner] will not be able to do any gainful employment since
she has not been working since 2004.” (R. 239). Turner’s argument falls short for
two reasons. First, as noted in Part V.B., a medical source’s opinion that a patient
may be unable to work is an opinion on an issue reserved to the Commissioner,
and not entitled to any special significance. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d). Second, Dr.
Gulati explicitly stated that “[i]t is my impression that [Turner] will not be able to
do any gainful employment since she has not been working since 2004”; his
opinion is clearly based on Turner’s work history rather than her medical
The regulations in question took effect on March 26, 2012. See How We Collect and
Consider Evidence of Disability, 77 Fed. Reg. 10,651, 10,651 (Feb. 23, 2012). Turner’s hearing
before the ALJ took place on June 8, 2012, (R. 43), and the ALJ issued her opinion on July 2,
2012, (R. 19).
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condition, and is consequently not supported by objective medical evidence. See
Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 583–84 (11th Cir. 1991) (finding that good
cause existed for rejecting a treating physician’s opinion when it was not
supported by objective medical evidence). Although Turner contends that “Dr.
Gulati did not expressly state that [Turner’s work history] was the only reason . . .
Turner would not be able to work,” and that it “is more likely than not, based on
the whole concept of the consultative physical examination and evaluation, that
his conclusion was based in part if not primarily on his findings and review of the
medical evidence,” doc. 8 at 11, the court declines to attach further, speculative
meaning to Dr. Gulati’s statement in light of the plain language regarding the basis
of his opinion.11 In sum, because it was an opinion on an issue reserved to the
Commissioner and not supported by objective medical evidence, the ALJ did not
err by rejecting Dr. Gulati’s opinion that Turner is unable to work.
D. The ALJ did not err by failing to obtain another consultative examination.
Finally, Turner seems to argue that the ALJ should have further developed
the record by ordering another consultative examination. Doc. 9 at 11–12. Turner
also seems to concede that this argument is a nonstarter because “there is no
To the extent Turner argues the ALJ should have recontacted Dr. Gulati, doc. 9 at 11,
the court again notes that the decision whether to recontact a treating source is entirely within the
discretion of the ALJ. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920b(c)(1).
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express requirement for a Medical Source Opinion or RFC assessment to be of
record in order for the ALJ to make RFC findings.” Id. at 11. However, even if
Turner did not waive this argument, it does not entitle her to relief. Although “the
ALJ has a duty to develop the record fully and fairly,” Wilson v. Apfel, 179 F.3d
1276, 1278 (11th Cir. 1999), that duty, generally, is limited to “develop[ing a
claimant’s] complete medical history for at least the 12 months preceding” a
claimant’s filing date “unless there is a reason to believe that development of an
earlier period is necessary,” 20 C.F.R. 416.912(d). An ALJ “may purchase a
consultative examination to try to resolve an inconsistency in the evidence or
when the evidence as a whole is insufficient to allow [him] to make a
determination or decision on [a] claim.” 20 C.F.R. 1519a(b) (emphasis added).
Turner has neither pointed to an inconsistency in the evidence nor an evidentiary
insufficiency that would be grounds for an additional consultative examination.
Moreover, even if she had made such a showing, ordering an examination would
be left to the discretion of the ALJ. Consequently, the ALJ did not err by failing to
order an additional consultative examination.
Based on the foregoing, the court concludes that the ALJ’s determination
that Turner is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence, and that the ALJ
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applied proper legal standards in reaching this determination. Therefore, the
Commissioner’s final decision is affirmed. A separate order in accordance with the
memorandum of decision will be entered.
Done this 24th day of October, 2014.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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