Jordan v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 9/15/14. (ASL)
2014 Sep-15 PM 03:19
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
Social Security Administration,
Case No.: 7:13-cv-00236-MHH
Plaintiff Larry Jordan applied to the Commissioner of Social Security for a
period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security
Income. The Commissioner denied Mr. Jordan’s application. In this Court, Mr.
Jordan challenges the Commissioner’s decision. (Doc. 1). The magistrate judge
who initially presided over this matter issued a report and recommended that the
Court affirm the Commissioner’s decision. (Doc. 11). Mr. Jordan objects to the
report and recommendation. (Doc. 12). The Clerk reassigned this matter to the
undersigned judicial officer for consideration of the magistrate judge’s report and
Mr. Jordan’s objections to it. (Doc. 14).
When a party objects to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, the
Court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or
specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This means the Court must “give fresh consideration to those
issues to which specific objection has been made.” Jeffrey S. by Ernest S. v. State
Bd. of Educ. of State of Ga., 896 F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990). The portions of
the report and recommendation to which the petitioner has not objected are
reviewed for clear error. Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 Fed. Appx. 781, 784 (11th Cir.
2006). The Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Mr. Jordan objects to the magistrate judge’s report, stating that the
magistrate judge “failed to address the administrative law judge’s failure to follow
the Commissioner’s own regulations regarding the evaluation of medical opinion.”
(Doc. 12, p. 2). Mr. Jordan argues that the ALJ failed to follow “all of the
standards contained in the [applicable] regulations.” (Doc. 12, p. 3) (emphasis in
Doc. 12). According to Mr. Jordan, “[t]he ALJ’s most serious omission was the
failure to discredit, or even discuss, the valid testing administered by Dr. Goff
which, when combined with his clinical observations, formed the basis for the
neuropsychologist’s findings and opinions. Opinions and findings supported by
medical testing are given substantial weight.
20 C.F.R. 404.1527 (c)(3).
Moreover, the regulations favor use of the types of testing administered by Dr.
Goff in evaluating and documenting mental disorders. See 20 C.F.R. Subpt P.
App. 1, 12.00 Mental Disorders D. 5.” (Doc. 12, p. 3). Mr. Jordan submits
that the magistrate judge “failed to consider the absence of any discussion
in the ALJ’s decision about the eight of these factors even though [the
factors] are detailed in the regulation.” (Doc. 12, p. 4).
Mr. Jordan’s argument operates from an incorrect premise. The
Eleventh Circuit has held that when an ALJ considers a medical opinion
pursuant to 20 C.F.R. 404.1527, “the ALJ is not required to explicitly address
each of those factors” in his or her opinion. Lawton v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 431
Fed. Appx. 830, 833 (11th Cir. 2011).
The ALJ discussed his reasons for
concluding that Mr. Jordan’s borderline intellectual functioning is “a non-severe
impairment that does not cause more than minimal limitation in [Mr. Jordan’s]
ability to perform mental work activities” and for rejecting Dr. Goff’s other
findings and opinions. (Doc. 6-3, p. 13). In fact, the ALJ devoted three pages of
his opinion to his analysis of Dr. Goff’s opinion. (Doc. 6-3, pp. 13-15). In those
three pages, the ALJ discussed the extent to which the record as a whole shaped his
analysis of Mr. Jordan’s intellectual functioning and anxiety. (Id).
The magistrate judge, in turn, discussed at length Mr. Jordan’s challenges to
the ALJ’s evaluation of Dr. Goff’s opinion.
(Doc. 11, pp. 11-19).
magistrate judge noted, although Mr. Jordan attended high school, his education
seems to qualify as “marginal” under the applicable regulations. (Doc. 11, p. 16)
(explaining that “the regulations define a sixth grade or less level of education as
‘marginal’ and state that an individual with a marginal education has ‘ability in
reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills which are needed to do simple unskilled
types of jobs.’ 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1564(b)(2), 416.964(b)(2).”).
Jordan’s performance on the tests that Dr. Goff administered indicates that Mr.
Jordan functions academically at the fourth grade level. (Doc. 6-10, p. 58). As the
magistrate judge found, even if the ALJ erred in concluding that Mr. Jordan has a
“limited” education rather than a “marginal” education, the error is harmless
“because it would not affect the VE’s conclusion that Plaintiff could perform other
jobs.” (Doc. 11, p. 16).
In the final analysis, the record demonstrates that Mr. Jordan was capable of
performing a number of jobs in the past. His ability to read, write, and follow
instructions has not changed over time. His physical problems with his foot, not
his intellectual capacity, caused him to leave his most recent job. (Doc. 6-3, pp.
The Court overrules Mr. Jordan’s objection to the way in which the
magistrate judge evaluated the ALJ’s treatment of Dr. Goff’s opinion concerning
Mr. Jordan’s intellectual capacity.
Mr. Jordan also argues that the magistrate judge failed to recognize that Dr.
Goff opined that Mr. Jordan’s ability to find and maintain work is affected not only
by his (Mr. Jordan’s) literacy but also by “numerous deficits” such as “memory
problems and anxiety.” (Doc. 12, p. 5). Neither the magistrate judge nor the ALJ
disregarded Dr. Goff’s broader opinion. The magistrate judge and the ALJ simply
concluded that the record as a whole undermines Dr. Goff’s conclusion (which is
based upon a single meeting with Mr. Jordan) that Mr. Jordan has a “marked
degree of impairment of his ability to understand, remember, and carry out
complex instructions; marked degree of impairment of his ability to maintain
attention and concentration for extended periods; and a marked degree of
impairment of his ability to respond to customary work pressures.” (Doc. 6-3, p.
14; Doc. 11, pp. 16-19). Indeed, even Dr. Goff acknowledged that Mr. Jordan’s
anxiety seemed to be “situational.” (Doc. 6-10, p. 59). The Court overrules this
Based on the Court’s de novo review of the portions of the magistrate
judge’s report and recommendation to which Mr. Jordan objected and the Court’s
review for clear error of the portions of the report and recommendation to which
Mr. Jordan did not object, the Court ADOPTS the magistrate judge’s report and
recommendation and overrules Mr. Jordan’s objections to the report and
recommendation. The Court will enter a separate judgment consistent with this
DONE and ORDERED this September 15, 2014.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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