Steele v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER entered that the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Cheryl Marie Steele benefits be AFFIRMED. Signed by Magistrate Judge P. Bradley Murray on 9/28/2017. (eec)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CHERYL MARIE STEELE,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Acting Commissioner of Social
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-0599-MU
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Cheryl Marie Steele brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“the Commissioner”) denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act). The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court. (Doc. 14 (“In accordance with
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 73, the parties in this case
consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any and all
proceedings in this case, … order the entry of a final judgment, and conduct all
post-judgment proceedings.”)). See also Doc. 15. Upon consideration of the
administrative record, Steele’s brief, the Commissioner’s brief, and oral argument
presented at the September 14, 2017 hearing before the undersigned Magistrate
Judge, it is determined that the Commissioner’s decision denying benefits should
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Steele applied for a period of disability and DIB, under Title II of the Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 423 - 425, on October 31, 2013, alleging disability beginning on
December 1, 2010. (Tr. 132-33, 134). Her application was denied at the initial
level of administrative review on December 11, 2013. (Tr. 67-71). On December
26, 2013, Steele requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr.
73-74). Steele initially appeared at a hearing before the ALJ on January 26,
2015. (Tr. 51-59). That hearing was continued in order for Steele to obtain legal
counsel. (Tr. 58). After obtaining counsel, Steele appeared at a supplemental
hearing on June 8, 2015. (Tr. 30-50). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
finding that Steele was not under a disability during the applicable time period on
June 26, 2015. (Tr. 20-25). Steele appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals
Council, and, on October 19, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her request for
review of the ALJ’s decision, thereby making the ALJ’s decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3, 16).
After exhausting her administrative remedies, Steele sought judicial review
in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed
an answer and the social security transcript on March 6, 2017. (Docs. 6, 7). Both
Any appeal taken from this Order and Judgment shall be made to the Eleventh
Circuit Court of Appeals. See Doc. 14. (“An appeal from a judgment entered by a
Magistrate Judge shall be taken directly to the United States Court of Appeals for
the judicial circuit in the same manner as an appeal from any other judgment of
this district court.”).
parties filed briefs setting forth their respective positions. (Docs. 9, 10). Oral
argument was held before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on September 14,
2017. (Doc. 13). The case is now ripe for decision.
II. CLAIM ON APPEAL
Steele alleges that the ALJ’s decision to deny her benefits is in error for
the following reason:
1. The ALJ erred by failing to retain a medical expert to determine the onset
date of Plaintiff’s impairments. (Doc. 9 at p. 2).
III. BACKGROUND FACTS
Steele was born on March 13, 1958, and was 55 years old at the time she
filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 34). Steele alleged disability due to scoliosis,
arthritis, hearing loss, feet problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back
problems, neck pain down to her right arm with numbness in her right arm, high
blood pressure, and acid reflux. (Tr. 159). She graduated from high school in
1976 and did not take special education classes. (Tr. 160). She worked as a
sewing machine operator from 1984 until 2004. (Tr. 193). Steele stopped working
in 2004 because the company closed. (Tr. 35). Steele testified that she did not
look for work immediately because she wanted to stay home for awhile, but when
she wanted to go back to work in 2008, she was not able to because of back
problems. (Tr. 35). Steele testified that she is primarily sedentary during the day,
but she does cook, clean house, and grocery shop. (Tr. 36-37). After conducting
a hearing, the ALJ made a determination that Steele was not under a disability at
any time from December 1, 2005, the alleged onset date, through December 31,
2010, the date last insured, and thus, was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 20-25).
IV. ALJ’S DECISION
After considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following findings
that are relevant to the issues presented in his June 26, 2015 decision:
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following medically determinable impairment:
scoliosis (20 CFR 404.1521et seq.).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limited the ability to perform basic workrelated activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore,
the claimant did not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments (20 CFR 404.1521 et seq.).
In reaching the conclusion that the claimant did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that significantly
limited her ability to perform basic work activities, the
undersigned has considered all symptoms and the extent to
which these symptoms can reasonably be accepted as
consistent with the objective medical evidence and other
evidence, based on the requirements of 20 CFR 404.1529 and
SSRs 96-4p and 96-7p. The undersigned has also considered
opinion evidence in accordance with the requirements of 20
CFR 404.1527 and SSRs 96-2p, 96-5p, 96-6p and 06-3p.
Unfortunately, the claimant has not met her burden of proving
that she has a severe impairment prior to her date last insured.
There is no medical evidence prior to or less than one year and
nine months after the date last insured of December 31, 2010
(All Exhibits). Without objective medical evidence during or
even within one year of the relevant time period, it is impossible
to ascertain the degree of limitation the claimant might have
had, if any, prior to December 31, 2010.
On February 23, 2015, Charlie Talbert, M.D., filled out a clinical
assessment of pain form on which he indicated he has been
treating the claimant since May 8, 2013 (Exhibit 14F, page 1).
He has diagnosed her with degenerative scoliosis and cervical
and lumbar disc disease (Exhibit 14F, page 1). He opined that
the claimant’s pain would distract her from adequately
performing her daily activities or work for at least two hours in an
eight-hour workday (Exhibit 14F, page 1). He further opined that
physical activity would increase the claimant's pain and cause
distraction from or total abandonment of task (Exhibit 14F, page
1). He then checks a box indicating that he believes the
claimant's pain has been at the level indicated since at least
"12/31/2010" (Exhibit 14F, page 2). Little weight is given to this
opinion because there is no objective evidence in the file to
support such a statement (All Exhibits). The objective evidence
in the file begins in October 2012, which is almost two years
after the claimant's date last insured. Dr. Talbert admits that he
did not start treating the claimant until May 8, 2013; therefore,
any opinion he gives is based upon objective evidence that
occurred almost three years after the claimant's date last
insured. Moreover , because he was not treating the claimant in
the year 2010, his statement that she would have had this level
of pain since at least December 2010 is not based upon his
own independent observations of the claimant's physical
condition rather it is based upon the claimant's own personal
statements of her condition. Therefore, his opinion is entitled to
There is some evidence that the claimant's degenerative
scoliosis would have been present prior to the claimant's date
last insured; however, there is no evidence that this impairment
would cause more than a minimal limitation in the claimant's
ability to perform work activity at that time. Therefore, it is
considered a non-severe impairment prior to October 2012.
At the hearing, the claimant testified that she did not seek
medical treatment prior to October 2012 because she did not
have medical insurance (Hearing Testimony). She testified that
she finally sought treatment in October 2012 because her
symptoms became so bad she could no longer walk (Hearing
Testimony). There is some evidence in the file that her
symptoms did not begin until June-October 2012. Although she
indicates she had a car accident in 1999 that caused her some
whiplash, she continued to perform work activity until 2004
(Exhibit 1F and Hearing Testimony). At the hearing, she testified
that she stopped working because the Dozier Plant closed
(Hearing Testimony). She did not testify that she stopped
working because of her physical condition (Hearing Testimony).
She then testified that she did not seek other employment
because she "decided she wanted to take some time off “
(Hearing Testimony). She further testified that around 2008 she
decided she wanted to go back to work, but could not because
of her symptoms (Hearing Testimony).
Unfortunately, the objective evidence in the file does not support
her statement that her symptoms began in 2008. On November
26, 2012, she told treating professionals that she had a neck
injury in 1999 that "flares up at times" which suggests that her
symptoms are not present consistently (Exhibit 5F, page 14). On
May 15, 2013, the claimant visited Michael Ellerbusch, M.D. , an
orthopedist, and she reported that she has had chronic issues
that have gotten worse over the past year (Exhibit 4F, page 8).
This statement would indicate her symptoms got worse
beginning in 2012, which is consistent with the objective medical
evidence in the file (All Exhibits). She also reported to a
chiropractor that her symptoms began in June 2012 (Exhibit 1F,
page 4). She crossed through June 2012 on the first page and
put June 1999 (Exhibit 1F, page 2). However, a June 1999
onset date is not supported by other statements she has made
in the record or the objective medical evidence in the file (All
Similarly, on June 3, 2013, she visited Gordon J. Kirschberg,
M.D., a neurologist, for evaluation of some tingling and
weakness in her right arm that she has "had for about a year or
so" (Exhibit 3F, page 2). This statement would also be
consistent with an increase in symptoms around the year 2012.
On March 18, 2015, the claimant visited William Craig, M.D. and
reported that she had low back symptoms "for months", which
would indicate an onset in the year 2014 (Exhibit 17F, page 4).
Records from Dozier Family Health clinic indicate that in the
year 2012, the claimant only sought treatment for hypertension
(Exhibit 18F, page 15). She did not mention lower back pain
until 2013 (Exhibit 18F, page 15).
Unfortunately, the claimant has not met her burden of proving a severe
impairment prior to her remote date last insured, December 31, 2010. All
objective evidence in the file occurs after October 2012.
After considering the evidence of record, the undersigned finds that
there is no objective medical evidence of any severe impairment
contained in the file prior to the claimant's date last insured. Therefore,
the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and
limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible because
there is no objective medical evidence to support the diagnosis of any
severe impairment prior to the claimant's date last insured.
5. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, at any time from December 1 2005, the
alleged onset date, through December 31 2010, the date
last insured (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
Eligibility for DIB requires that the claimant be disabled. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(a)(1)(E). The claimant must establish disability on or before her date last
insured (“DLI”). A claimant is disabled if the claimant 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 12 months.” 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A). The impairment must be severe, making the claimant
unable to do the claimant’s previous work or any other substantial gainful activity
that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505-11. “Substantial gainful activity means work that … [i]nvolves doing
significant and productive physical or mental duties [that] [i]s done (or intended)
for pay or profit.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1510.
In all Social Security cases, an ALJ utilizes a five-step sequential
evaluation in determining whether the claimant is disabled:
(1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if
not, whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) if so, whether the
severe impairment meets or equals an impairment in the Listing of
Impairment in the regulations; (4) if not, whether the claimant has the RFC
to perform her past relevant work; and (5) if not, whether, in light of the
claimant’s RFC, age, education and work experience, there are other jobs
the claimant can perform.
Watkins v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 457 F. App’x 868, 870 (11th Cir. 2012) (per
curiam) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), (c)-(f), 416.920(a)(4), (c)-(f); Phillips
v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir. 2004)) (footnote omitted). The
claimant bears the burden of proving the first four steps, and if the claimant does
so, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove the fifth step. Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999).
If the claimant appeals an unfavorable ALJ decision, the reviewing court
must determine whether the Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits was
“supported by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.”
Winschel v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla
and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate
to support a conclusion.” Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (citations omitted). “In
determining whether substantial evidence exists, [the reviewing court] must view
the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
unfavorable to the [Commissioner’s] decision.” Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129,
131 (11th Cir. 1986). The reviewing court “may not decide the facts anew,
reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner].”
Id. When a decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing court
must affirm “[e]ven if [the court] find[s] that the evidence preponderates against
the Secretary’s decision.” MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053 (11th Cir.
In his decision in Steele’s case, the ALJ first determined that her DLI was
December 31, 2010. (Tr. 22). He next began the process of applying the five-step
sequential evaluation to Steele’s claim. At step one, if the ALJ finds that the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”), the claim is
denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I) & (b); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510,
404.1572. In the instant case, the ALJ found that Steele did not engage in SGA
from her alleged onset date (December 1, 2005) through her DLI. (Tr. 22).2
Therefore, he proceeded to an evaluation of step two. At step two, if the claimant
does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limits the claimant from performing basic work activities, the claim is
denied. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) & (c), 404.1521. After evaluating all
medical records and Steele’s testimony, the ALJ found that Steele’s medically
determinable impairment of scoliosis was not severe within the meaning of the
regulations at any time on or before her DLI of December 31, 2010. (Tr. 22-25).
That finding ended the sequential evaluation and, thus, the ALJ found that Steele
was not disabled within the meaning of the Act during the period at issue, which
was December 1, 2005 through her DLI of December 31, 2010. (Tr. 25).
Before this Court, Steele argues that the ALJ erred by failing to retain a
medical expert to determine the onset date of her impairment. In support of her
During at least a portion of that period, Steele made the choice to not return to
the work force after the company at which she had been working closed. (Tr. 35).
argument, Steele relies on Social Security Ruling 83-20 and HALLEX I-2-670(A). Social Security Ruling 83-20 states, in relevant part:
In disabilities of nontraumatic origin, the determination of onset involves
consideration of the applicant’s allegations, work history, if any, and the
medical and other evidence concerning impairment severity. The weight to be
given any of the relevant evidence depends on the individual case…. Medical
reports containing descriptions of examinations or treatment of the individual
are basic to the determination of the onset of disability. The medical evidence
serves as the primary element in the onset determination…. In determining the
date of onset of disability, the date alleged by the individual should be used if it
is consistent with all the evidence available. When the medical or work
evidence is not consistent with the allegation, additional development may be
needed to reconcile the discrepancy. However, the established onset date must
be fixed based on the facts and can never be inconsistent with the medical
evidence of record…. In some cases, it may be possible, based on the
medical evidence to reasonably infer that the onset of a disabling
impairment(s) occurred sometime prior to the date of the first recorded
medical examination. e.g., the date the claimant stopped working. How long
the disease may be determined to have existed at a disabling level of
severity depends on an informed judgment of the facts in the particular case.
This judgment, however, must have a legitimate medical basis. At the hearing,
the administrative law judge (ALJ) should call on the services of a medical
advisor when onset must be inferred…. The available medical evidence should
be considered in view of the nature of the impairment…. The onset date should
be set on the date when it is most reasonable to conclude from the evidence
that the impairment was sufficiently severe to prevent the individual from
engaging in SGA (or gainful activity) for a continuous period of at least 12
months or result in death. Convincing rationale must be given for the date
SSR 83-20 (S.S.A.), 1983-1991 Soc. Sec. Rep. Serv. 49, 1983 WL 31249 (Jan.
1, 1983). The court notes that Social Security Rulings are not binding on
federal courts. See Caces v. Comm’r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 560 F. App’x 936, 938
(11th Cir. 2014). However, courts in this circuit generally accord the rulings
respect and deference if the underlying statute is not clear and the legislative
history offers no guidance. Id.
HALLEX I-2-6-70(A) states that “[a]n ALJ is encouraged to consult with
an ME [medical expert] when the claimant alleges disability that began before
his or her date last insured and the facts may conceivably support the claim.
SSR 83-20.” HALLEX I-2-6-70(A) n.3, 1993 WL 751901 (Dec. 12, 2013). This
HALLEX recommendation provides guidance to an ALJ who is charged with
determining an onset date for an allegedly limiting disability; “[h]owever, it
suggests the use of a medical expert, rather than mandating it, and thus cannot
fairly be the basis of error on the part of the ALJ.” See Lanier v. Colvin, Civ. A.
No. 1:15-cv-00255-N, 2016 WL 4386086, *4 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 16, 2016).
While these rulings may be instructive in a case in which it is necessary to
ascertain the exact date of onset to determine the period of disability, in this
case, the Court finds that they are inapplicable because the ALJ was able to
make a finding of no disability based on the record, which contained sufficient
evidence to support such a finding. With regard to Steele’s impairment, in
addition to her own testimony, the ALJ had medical treatment records from Dr.
Charlie Talbert, Dr. Michael Ellerbusch, Dr. Gordon Kirschberg, Dr. William
Craig, and Dozier Family Health Clinic. Based on these records and the opinions
contained therein, the ALJ found that Steele’s impairment was not severe during
the relevant time period, specifically noting that, in addition to there being no
medical evidence prior to Steele’s DLI, she did not seek treatment for any
problems potentially related to scoliosis until October of 2012. (Tr. 23). In his
decision, the ALJ cited a number of medical records, which support his
conclusion that Steele did not have a severe impairment prior to her DLI, and he
explained why he gave little weight to the contrary opinion of Dr. Talbert and to
Steele’s own testimony.
On February 23, 2015, more than four years after Steele’s DLI, Dr.
Talbert completed a clinical assessment of pain form, indicating that he had
been treating her since May 8, 2013, more than two years after her DLI. (Tr.
23, 338-39). Dr. Talbert diagnosed her with degenerative scoliosis and cervical
and lumbar disc disease. (Tr. 23). He opined that her pain would distract her
from adequately performing her daily activities or work for at least two hours in
an eight-hour workday. (Id.). Dr. Talbert further opined that physical activity
would increase Steele’s pain and cause distraction from or total abandonment
of task. (Tr. 23-24). He then checked a box indicating that he believed that her
pain had been at the level indicated “since at least 12/31/10.” (Tr. 24).
The ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Talbert’s opinion regarding her pain
level on December 31, 2010 because he found no objective evidence in the
record to support Talbert’s blanket conclusion. (Id.). The objective evidence of
record began in October of 2012, which is almost two years after Steele’s DLI.
(Tr. 24, 371-74). Because he was not treating Steele in 2010, Dr. Talbert’s
statement that she would have had this level of pain since at least December
2010 is not based upon his own independent observations of her physical
condition; rather it appears that it must have been based on her own personal
statements to him of her condition, which were not consistent with the
statements she made to other treating physicians regarding the onset of her
back problems. (Tr. 24). Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the ALJ’s
decision to give little weight to Dr. Talbert’s opinion regarding whether she had
a severe impairment prior to her DLI was based on substantial evidence.
The ALJ noted that there was some evidence that Steele’s degenerative
scoliosis would have been present before her DLI; however, there was no
evidence that this condition would cause more than a minimal limitation in
her ability to perform work activity at that time. (Id.). The ALJ concluded that
her condition was a non-severe impairment prior to 2012. (Id.) As previously
noted, Steele last worked in 2004. (Tr. 24, 35). She stopped working because
the plant closed, and she did not look for other work at the time because she
“wanted to stay home for a while.” (Id.). She testified that she decided she was
ready to go back to work around 2008, but was unable to do so because “[m]y
back started bothering me.” (Id.). However, as noted above, the ALJ found that
the objective evidence of record does not support her allegation that her
symptoms began in 2008. (Tr. 24). Specifically, on November 26, 2012, the
evidence showed that Steele told treating professionals that she had a neck
injury in 1999 that “flares up at times,” which suggested that her symptoms
were not consistently present at that time. (Tr. 24, 261). On May 15, 2013,
she visited Dr. Ellerbusch, an orthopedist, and reported that she had chronic
issues that had gotten worse over the past year. (Tr. 24, 234). This statement
appears to indicate that her symptoms got worse beginning in 2012, which
the ALJ noted was consistent with other evidence. (Tr. 24). In a form
completed for a chiropractor, Steele reported that her symptoms began in
June of 2012. (Tr. 24, 207). Earlier in that same form, she changed “June
2012” to “June 1999.” (Tr. 24, 205). However, the ALJ found that a June 1999
onset date was not supported by other statements Steele made or by the
objective evidence. (Tr. 24).
On June 3, 2013, Steele saw Dr. Kirschberg, a neurologist, for evaluation
of some tingling and weakness in her right arm “that she has had for about a
year or so.” (Tr. 24, 225). The ALJ found that this evidence was also consistent
with an increase in symptoms around the year 2012, well after her DLI. (Tr. 2425). On March 18, 2015, Steele saw William Craig, M.D., and reported that she
had experienced low back symptoms “for months,” which would indicate an
onset in the year 2014, again well after her DLI. (Tr. 25, 347). Finally, records
from Dozier Family Health clinic indicate that, in the year 2012, Steele sought
treatment for hypertension, but she did not mention lower back pain until 2013.
(Tr. 25, 372).
The issue presented here is whether the foregoing evidence was sufficient
to support the ALJ’s finding that Steele did not suffer from a “disability” as defined
by the Act on or before her DLI or whether the ALJ should have called upon a
medical expert to ascertain the onset date of Steele’s severe impairment.
Addressing the argument that SSR 83-20 required the use of a medical expert to
ascertain onset date, the Eleventh Circuit has held that SSR 83-20 “is applicable
only after there has been a finding of disability and it is then necessary to
determine when the disability began.” Caces, 560 F. App’x at 939; see also
Klawinski v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 391 F. App’x 772, 776 (11th Cir. 2010)
(emphasis added) (holding that “the ALJ did not contravene SSR 83-20 because
the ALJ ultimately found that Klawinski was not disabled”); Eichstadt v. Astrue,
534 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2008) (finding that SSR 83-20’s statement urging the
ALJ to seek an opinion from a medical expert only applies “after a finding of
disability has been made”). In this case, the ALJ found that Steele was not
disabled prior to December 31, 2010, the DLI; therefore, there was no need to
determine the onset date. Id. In addition, even in cases in which the
determination of an onset date is necessary, the date on which an impairment
became “disabling” as required by the Act must be based on a “legitimate
medical basis.” See SSR 83-20. Because Steele did not produce any medical
evidence suggesting the presence of a disabling impairment at any time prior to
the expiration of her insured status, it is “difficult to see how any medical
examiner could have provided an opinion, grounded in the requisite ‘legitimate
medical basis,’ that her now-diagnosed [scoliosis] rendered her ‘disabled’” on or
before December 31, 2010. Eichstadt, 534 F.3d at 667; see also SabillonPerdomo v. Colvin, No. 8:14-cv-2826-T-AEP, 2016 WL 7428798, * 6 (M.D. Fla.
Mar. 31, 2016) (holding that “[g]iven the complete lack of medical records to
establish a finding of disability prior to age 22, there is simply no need to make
an inference regarding an onset date because any such inference would
invariably have to be without a legitimate medical basis”).
In this case, the ALJ clearly enunciated his reason’s for the conclusions he
made based upon the numerous medical opinions in the record. Because
sufficient evidence supports the ALJ’s conclusion that Steele did not suffer from a
disability on or before the date of her DLI, the Court finds that the ALJ did not err
by not retaining a medical expert to opine on the date of onset.
As noted above, it is not this Court’s place to reweigh the evidence or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. It is well-established that
this Court is limited to a determination of whether the ALJ’s decision is supported
by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards. The Court finds
that the ALJ’s Decision that Steele is not entitled to benefits is supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards. Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
Plaintiff Cheryl Marie Steele benefits be AFFIRMED.
DONE and ORDERED this the 28th day of September, 2017.
s/P. BRADLEY MURRAY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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