Kinsley v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION AND ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly, terminate any pending motions and deadlines, and close the file. Signed by Magistrate Judge Douglas N. Frazier on 9/16/2014. (CAS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
FORT MYERS DIVISION
Case No: 2:13-cv-564-FtM-DNF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security ,
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Dodie Kinsley, seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration denying her claim for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits. The Commissioner filed the Transcript of the proceedings (hereinafter
referred to as “Tr.” followed by the appropriate page number), and the parties filed legal
memoranda in support of their positions. For the reasons set out herein, the Court finds that the
decision of the Commissioner is due to be AFFIRMED, pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility, Procedural History, and Standard of Review
The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to
result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less
than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(I), 423(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505. The impairment must
Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on February 14, 2013. Pursuant to Rule
25(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Carolyn W. Colvin should be substituted, therefore, for
Commissioner Michael J. Astrue as the defendant in this suit. No further action need be taken to continue this suit
by reason of the last sentence of § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
be severe, making Plaintiff unable to do his previous work, or any other substantial gainful
activity which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d) (2); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505404.1511.
On February 3, 2010, Plaintiff protectively filed a Title II application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits. On February 9, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Title XVI
application for supplemental security income. In both applications, Plaintiff alleged a disability
onset date of December 31, 2009. Plaintiff’s request for benefits was initially denied on July 12,
2010. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing on August 17, 2010. Plaintiff
failed to present herself to her first hearing set on September 29, 2011. Plaintiff submitted a
letter showing good cause and a second hearing was scheduled for November 29, 2011. Plaintiff
attended this hearing but her attorney failed to appear and a new hearing was rescheduled. On
March 30, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Ronald S. Robins (“the
ALJ”) in Fort Myers, Florida. On May 9, 2012, the ALJ rendered his decision in which he
determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from
December 31, 2009, through the date of his decision. Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s
decision was denied by the Appeals Council on June 5, 2013.
Standard of Review
The Commissioner’s findings of fact are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.
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 support to a conclusion. Even if the evidence
preponderated against the Commissioner’s findings, we must affirm if the decision reached is
supported by substantial evidence.” Crawford v. Comm’r., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004)
(citing Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997)); Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d
1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). In conducting this review, this Court may not reweigh the evidence
or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ, but must consider the evidence as a whole, taking
into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the decision. Martin v. Sullivan, 894
F.2d 1329, 1330 (11th Cir. 2002); Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995).
However, the District Court will reverse the Commissioner’s decision on plenary review if the
decision applied incorrect law, or if the decision fails to provide sufficient reasoning to
determine that the Commissioner properly applied the law. Keeton v. Dep’t. of Health & Human
Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir. 1994). The Court reviews de novo the conclusions of law
made by the Commissioner of Social Security in a disability benefits case. Social Security Act, §
205(g), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The ALJ must follow five steps in evaluating a claim of disability. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920. At step one, the claimant must prove that he is not undertaking substantial
gainful employment. Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001), see 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If a claimant is engaging in any substantial gainful activity, he will be found
not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
At step two, the claimant must prove that he is suffering from a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278, 20 C.F.R. § 1520(a)(4)(ii). If the
claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments does not significantly limit his physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities, the ALJ will find that the impairment is not severe, and
the claimant will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 1520(c).
At step three, the claimant must prove that his impairment meets or equals one of
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P. App. 1; Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278; 20 C.F.R.
§ 1520(a)(4)(iii). If he meets this burden, he will be considered disabled without consideration of
age, education and work experience. Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278.
At step four, if the claimant cannot prove that his impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed in Appendix 1, he must prove that his impairment prevents him from
performing his past relevant work. Id. At this step, the ALJ will consider the claimant’s RFC and
compare it with the physical and mental demands of his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
1520(a)(4)(iv), 20 C.F.R. § 1520(f) . If the claimant can still perform his past relevant work, then
he will not be found disabled. Id.
At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that the claimant is capable
of performing other work available in the national economy, considering the claimant’s RFC,
age, education, and past work experience. Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278; 20 C.F.R. § 1520(a)(4)(v).
If the claimant is capable of performing other work, he will be found not disabled. Id. In
determining whether the Commissioner has met this burden, the ALJ must develop a full and fair
record regarding the vocational opportunities available to the claimant. Allen v. Sullivan, 880
F.2d 1200, 1201 (11th Cir. 1989). There are two ways in which the ALJ may make this
determination. The first is by applying the Medical Vocational Guidelines (“the Grids”), and the
second is by the use of a vocational expert. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1239 (11th Cir.
2004). Only after the Commissioner meets this burden does the burden shift back to the claimant
to show that he is not capable of performing the “other work” as set forth by the Commissioner.
Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 n.2 (11th Cir. 2001).
Background Facts and Summary of ALJ’s Findings
A. Background Facts
Plaintiff was born on June 8, 1981, and was 28 years of age at the time of the alleged
onset date. (Tr. 29). Plaintiff has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in
English. (Tr. 29). Plaintiff has no past relevant work experience.
B. The ALJ’s Findings
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through March 31, 2012, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
December 31, 2009, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 21). At step two, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, history of asthma, obesity,
bipolar disorder and borderline intellectual functioning. (Tr. 21). At step three, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically
equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. (Tr.
Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ made the following residual functional capacity
The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at
all exertional levels but with the following nonexetertional limitations: The
claimant is able to frequently perform simple, unskilled, and repetitive tasks in a
non-stress work environment. The claimant would have occasional difficulty
understanding, remembering, and carrying out complex instructions.
(Tr. 25-26). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work. (Tr. 26).
At step five, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC
and determined that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform. (Tr. 30). Based on the testimony given by a vocational expert present at
the March 30, 2012 administrative hearing, the ALJ found that an individual with Plaintiff’s RFC
could perform the occupations of ticket taker and mail sorter. (Tr. 29). Given this finding at step
five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled.
Plaintiff raises two issues on appeal: (1) whether the ALJ’s RFC assessment is supported
by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the ALJ erred in his consideration of Plaintiff’s daily
activities and ability to care for her child when assessing Plaintiff’s credibility. The Court will
address each issue in turn.
A. Whether the ALJ’s RFC assessment is supported by substantial evidence
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s severe impairments are not
disabling is contrary to the substantial evidence of record and that her impairments cause her to
be significantly more physically and mentally limited than the ALJ assessed in his RFC
determination. (Doc. 23 p. 14). Plaintiff contends that the medical evidence shows that Plaintiff’s
chronic physical conditions preclude her from performing a full range of work at all exertional
levels. (Doc. 29 p. 1). Further, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to account for all of Plaintiff’s
mental limitations caused by her psychological impairments in his assessment of Plaintiff’s RFC.
(Doc. 29 p. 3).
Defendant responds that contrary to Plaintiff’s contentions, substantial evidence supports
the ALJ’s assessment of Plaintiff’s RFC. (Doc. 26 p. 4). Defendant argues that while Plaintiff
complained of neck, back, and left leg pain, there is little objective evidence to establish that she
had a medically determinable impairment that accounted for her subjective complaints. (Doc. 26
p. 6). Defendant argues that the ALJ discussed Plaintiff’s treatment for diabetes and other
impairments, but noted that the medical evidences does not demonstrate that Plaintiff’s alleged
pain resulted in any work-related limitations. (Doc. 26 p. 8). Additionally, Defendant argues that
the ALJ’s RFC finding accounted for all of Plaintiff’s mental limitations. (Doc. 26 p. 13).
“The residual functional capacity is an assessment, based upon all of the relevant
evidence, of a claimant’s remaining ability to do work despite his impairments.” Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997). An individual’s RFC is her ability to do
physical and mental work activities on a sustained basis despite limitations secondary to her
established impairments. Delker v. Commissioner of Social Security, 658 F. Supp. 2d 1340, 1364
(M.D. Fla. 2009). In determining a claimant’s RFC, the ALJ must consider all of the relevant
evidence of record. Barrio v. Commissioner of Social Security, 394 F. App’x 635, 637 (11th Cir.
2010). However, the Eleventh Circuit has consistently held that “the claimant bears the burden
of proving that [she] is disabled, and consequently, [she] is responsible for producing evidence
in support of her claim.” Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003). Further, in
order to be entitled to disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act, a claimant must
establish that he became disabled on or prior to the expiration of his insured status. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.315; Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (noting that a claimant
must prove he was disabled on or before the date last insured for DIB).
In his opinion, the ALJ carefully reviewed Plaintiff’s medical record in his assessment of
Plaintiff’s RFC. The ALJ began by noting that in February 2010, Plaintiff began care with nurse
practitioner Darryl Lacy for diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”). (Tr.
21). Treatment notes from this time indicate that Plaintiff was not currently taking medication
for diabetes. (Tr. 21, 302). Plaintiff indicated that she was controlling her diabetes through diet
and exercise. (Tr. 21, 302). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff reported that she checked her blood
glucose level four times a day. (Tr. 21, 302). Plaintiff denied having any blurred vision or
peripheral neuropathy at this time. (Tr. 21, 302). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff reported that she
The Court notes that the ALJ erroneously referred to Mr. Lacy as a primary care physician in his opinion.
had developed COPD after being in an accident several years prior to the visit. (TR. 21, 302).
Plaintiff reported that she was not experiencing any shortness of breath or difficulty breathing at
the time. The ALJ noted that a physical examination of Plaintiff on this date was within normal
limits. (Tr. 22, 302).
The ALJ noted that Plaintiff followed up with Mr. Lacy in May 2010. (Tr. 22). At the
time, Plaintiff complained of having neck and back pain for the past two weeks. (Tr. 22). Plaintiff
denied having any recent injury or trauma, and related that the pain comes and goes. (Tr. 22).
Plaintiff stated that she was not having any difficulty doing activities of daily living. (Tr. 22). A
physical examination revealed that Plaintiff’s cervical and lumbar spines had full range of
motion. (Tr. 22).
The ALJ noted that Plaintiff returned to see Mr. Lacy in August 2010, and she reported
that her diabetes continued to be controlled with diet and that she was not taking her prescribed
medication. (Tr. 22, 297). Plaintiff complained of back pain that radiated to the left leg and
alleged that her left leg gives out on her while walking. (Tr. 22, 298). Plaintiff reported Flexeril
helped some but not much. On examination, Plaintiff was in no acute distress but had decreased
range of motion of the cervical and lumbar spines and left hip, positive straight leg raises on the
left at 40 degrees, and normal deep tendon reflexes. (Tr. 22, 298). Mr. Lacy noted no gait
abnormalities. (Tr. 22, 298). Mr. Lacy ordered x-rays of Plaintiff’s cervical and lumbar spines
and left hip and recommended she stay active throughout the day and take Flexeril. (Tr. 299).
The x-rays were normal and demonstrated no abnormalities in Plaintiff’s spine or hip. (Tr. 22,
In September 2010, Plaintiff reported that she continued taking Flexeril and that her pain
had resolved “for the most part,” and she stated she was doing a lot better. (Tr. 22, 296). Plaintiff
complained of a new onset of pain to the right knee, but she denied any recent injury or trauma
and was in no acute distress. (Tr. 22, 296). On examination, she had full range of motion of the
knee, some crepitus, no joint line tenderness, and a normal gait. (Tr. 22, 296). Mr. Lacy advised
her to continue with Flexeril and to take over the counter NSAIDs as needed for knee pain, but,
as to her back, leg, and hip pain, Mr. Lacy noted there was no further need for treatment or
management because Plaintiff’s pain had resolved. (Tr. 296).
On November 4, 2010, Plaintiff learned she was about 11 weeks pregnant. (Tr. 294). She
reported that her diabetes mellitus was stable, and no elevated blood pressures were noted (Tr.
295). J. Welch, M.D. discontinued Plaintiff’s prescriptions for Lisinopril and Lovastatin, which
she admitted to not even filling. (Tr. 295). The following week, Plaintiff continued to control her
diabetes with diet, she was in no acute distress, and her gait was normal. (Tr. 282-83). A physical
examination was negative for back or extremity abnormalities. (Tr. 288).
Plaintiff’s remaining medical appointments in 2010 through May of 2011 related
primarily to her prenatal care, constipation, and the delivery of her daughter. (Tr. 276-96, 31321). These records do not contain any significant findings related to Plaintiff’s alleged neuropathy
or complaints of pain, nor do they include any information regarding Plaintiff’s functional
limitations. (Tr. 276-96, 313-21). There are no records demonstrating Plaintiff sought any
medical treatment after her daughter’s birth on May 14, 2011, until December of 2011, when she
established care with Dr. Colette Haywood. (Tr. 313-21, 326-31).
Dr. Haywood noted that Plaintiff had never been to a podiatrist, had not taken any
medication for three months, had no diabetic neuropathy or physical disability, and performed
activities of daily living normally. (Tr. 23, 326-27). Plaintiff denied having any neck pain, neck
stiffness, arthralgias, or tingling or numbness of the feet, and Dr. Haywood noted Plaintiff was
in no acute distress. (Tr. 23, 328). Physical examination findings were normal with respect to
Plaintiff’s neck, musculoskeletal system, and neurological system, including normal sensation,
motor strength, gait, and stance. (Tr. 328-29). Dr. Haywood specifically noted Plaintiff had no
diabetic nephropathy, no diabetic peripheral neuropathy, no diabetic autonomic neuropathy, and
no diabetic hypoglycemia. (Tr. 23, 327).
As to Plaintiff’s mental health issues, the ALJ noted that medical evidence from 2006
indicates that Plaintiff was voluntarily hospitalized and received treatment for suicidal ideation
and ongoing treatment for depression. (Tr. 23). In July 2010, Plaintiff underwent a psychological
evaluation with William Morton, Psy.D. (Tr. 23). Dr. Morton noted that Plaintiff was a fair
historian, reported taking psychiatric medications in the past, but denied taking any at that time.
Plaintiff reported past involvement with outpatient therapy and psychiatric
hospitalizations. (Tr. 23). She admitted to a substance abuse history in the past and stated that
she had been clean for three years. (Tr. 23). She completed high school and did not report
receiving any special education services. (Tr. 23). Plaintiff lives with her significant other and
her overall level of independent function was fair. (Tr. 23). A depression screening was positive
with the following symptoms: sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, irritability, loss of
concentration, loss of motivation, little or no energy, fatigue, subjective feelings of sadness, and
feelings of worthlessness. (Tr. 23). A mania screening revealed expansive elevate or irritable
mood, flight of ideas or subjective experience of racing thoughts, pressured speech and
distractibility. (Tr. 23). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff presented with a fair posture, locomotion,
and gait, and had no difficulty with extended sitting or arising from a seated position. (Tr. 23).
Dr. Morton noted that Plaintiff’s attention, concentration, and vigilance was fair, but her thinking
ability was subnormal. (Tr. 23). Dr. Morton found that Plaintiff’s general fund of knowledge
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was limited, and her judgment and reasoning appeared to be poor. (Tr. 23). Additionally, the
ALJ noted that Dr. Morton found that Plaintiff had indications of mild memory impairment. (Tr.
The ALJ noted that Plaintiff did not follow up with a mental health treatment until January
2012 at which time she underwent a psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Gregory Young at Lee
Mental Health Center. (Tr. 23). Plaintiff complained of depression, anxiety, having no energy,
and being bipolar, and reported having a bad memory and frequent mood swings. (Tr. 23). She
reported living with her boyfriend and ten month old daughter. (Tr. 23-24). Plaintiff denied
having any suicidal intent or ideation. (Tr. 24). Her mood and affect were depressed, anxious,
and appropriate. (Tr. 24). Plaintiff was started on Tegretol and Celexa. (Tr. 24). Plaintiff
followed up with medication management and Dr. Young noted that Plaintiff reported being less
depressed and having less anxiety. (Tr. 24).
Finally, in reaching his RFC determination, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s testimony at
the administrative hearing. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff testified that she was unable to work
due to diabetes mellitus. (Tr. 26). She indicated that because of her diabetes mellitus she had
developed problems in her hands and feet and was prescribed special shoes. (Tr. 26). The ALJ
noted that Plaintiff testified that she is able to sit/stand for 1 to 2 hours and must keep her feet
elevated for 3 to 4 hours each day. (Tr. 26). She reported having little energy and that she is
unable to pick up her ten month old daughter, who is cared for by Plaintiff’s boyfriend and
neighbor. (Tr. 26). Plaintiff testified that she does not prepare meals or do any household chores.
(Tr. 26). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff appeared at the hearing in a wheelchair and reported having
had the wheelchair for two months. (Tr. 26). She reported that the nerves in her feet and back
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had gotten worse and she required the wheelchair to alleviate pain. (Tr. 26). She endorsed
feelings of guilt, worthlessness and crying spells. (Tr. 26).
In this case, the Court finds that the ALJ did not commit reversible error in his RFC
determination. The ALJ’s opinion demonstrates that the ALJ reviewed all the medical evidence
of record, and adequately articulated his reasoning for his RFC assessment. The ALJ explained
that the record reflects significant gaps in Plaintiff’s history of treatment with relatively
infrequent trips to the doctor for the allegedly disabling symptoms. (Tr. 27). The ALJ noted that
Plaintiff provided no medical records at or immediately before the alleged onset date. (Tr. 27).
The ALJ noted that there is no evidence of a significant deterioration in Plaintiff’s medical
conditions since the last date of her employment. (Tr. 27). Instead, the medical evidence
presented indicated that Plaintiff’s diabetes mellitus was well controlled and she was not
experiencing any recent breathing related problems. (Tr. 27). The ALJ’s finding is consistent
with the medical record, which is replete with notations that Plaintiff’s diabetes was controlled,
by diet alone, and that she had no diabetic neuropathy. (Tr. 253, 278, 282-53, 294-95, 300, 32627). Medical records indicate that she was not taking any medications for diabetes mellitus and
did not require them. (Tr. 27). She reported that breathing treatment/medications did help her
when she had breathing problems. (Tr. 27). She has had extensive treatment for diabetes mellitus
or asthma, no emergency room visits, and no hospital admissions for the same. (Tr. 27).
As to Plaintiff’s subjective complaints at the hearing, the ALJ addressed Plaintiff’s
complaints and explained his rationale for finding her subjective complaints not credible to the
extent that they are inconsistent with the ALJ’s RFC. If an ALJ discredits the subjective
testimony of a plaintiff, then he must “articulate explicit and adequate reasons for doing so.
[citations omitted] Failure to articulate the reasons for discrediting subjective testimony requires,
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as a matter of law, that the testimony be accepted as true.” Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d at 1225.
“A clearly articulated credibility finding with substantial supporting evidence in the record will
not be disturbed by a reviewing court.” Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1562 (11th Cir. 1995)).
The factors an ALJ must consider in evaluating a plaintiff’s subjective symptoms are: “(1) the
claimant's daily activities; (2) the nature and intensity of pain and other symptoms; (3)
precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) effects of medications; (5) treatment or measures taken
by the claimant for relief of symptoms; and other factors concerning functional limitations.”
Moreno v. Astrue, 366 F. App’x at 28 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3)).
In this case, the ALJ noted that in terms of Plaintiff’s alleged diabetes and associated
symptoms of neuropathy, the medical evidence of record simply does not support Plaintiff’s
allegations. (Tr. 26). The ALJ noted that although Plaintiff testified at the hearing that she
required a wheelchair and special shoes for her feet as a result of nerve problems, her most recent
medical records from December 2011 indicated that she denied having any complications from
diabetes mellitus. (Tr. 26). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff’s treatment records do not support her
use of her wheelchair or special shoes, as there is no record of any doctor recommending or
prescribing special shoes or a wheelchair.
The Court is unconvinced by Plaintiff’s argument that the ALJ erred in his consideration
of Plaintiff’s mental limitations. Although he was not required to review and consider Plaintiff’s
medical records from 2006, as Plaintiff’s alleged disability onset date is December 31, 2006, the
ALJ nevertheless noted and considered these records.
The ALJ noted that Plaintiff had
undergone a consultative examination in January 2010, reported not having any recent treatment,
and was not currently using any medications. (Tr. 27). Plaintiff did not appear to seek mental
health treatment until January 2012, at which time she reported having depression, anxiety, and
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being bipolar. (Tr. 27). Plaintiff was given medication for these conditions and, on follow-up,
she reported feeling much better and that her depression and anxiety had decreased. (Tr. 27).
Plaintiff bore the burden of proving her disability. Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272,
1276 (11th Cir. 2003). In this case, the record fails to support the limitations alleged by Plaintiff.
The ALJ’s RFC determination was supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, the Court
will not disturb it on appeal.
B. Whether the ALJ erred in his consideration of Plaintiff’s daily activities and
ability to care for her child when assessing Plaintiff’s credibility.
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to explain how Plaintiff’s daily activities and
her ability to care for her child conflicted with her inability to work full-time. (Doc. 23 p. 21).
Defendant responds that the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff’s activities in assessing the
credibility of Plaintiff’s allegations of disabling symptoms and limitations. (Doc. 26 p. 14).
An individual’s daily activities is one factor that an ALJ may consider in addition to the
objective medical evidence when assessing the credibility of an individual’s statements. SSR 967p. Thus, “[w]hile the performance of everyday tasks cannot be used to make a determination
that the Plaintiff was not disabled, daily activities can be used as a measure of the Plaintiff’s
credibility in regard to his ability to perform certain tasks.” Prochilo v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
2008 WL 768729, at *15 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 20, 2008) (citing Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208,
1212 (11th Cir. 2005); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1226 (11th Cir. 2002); Norris v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 1154, 1158 (11th Cir. 1985)).
As part of his credibility assessment of Plaintiff’s subjective complaints, the ALJ
considered Plaintiff’s daily activities, noting that Plaintiff has provided inconsistent information
regarding daily activities. The ALJ noted that at the hearing, in her adult function report, and in
her pain questionnaire, Plaintiff reported not being able to walk, requiring assistance for every
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activity, and being unable to do almost everything, i.e. cooking, bathing, cleaning, etc. Plaintiff
completed both forms on May 11, 2010. (Tr. 27). However, Mr. Lacy’s treatment notes indicate
that Plaintiff had an office visit the very next day on May 12, 2010. (Tr. 27). Notes from this
meeting show that Plaintiff reported not being able to “pinpoint any activity that aggravates the
pain,” and stated that, “she is not having any difficulty doing activities of daily living.” (Tr. 27).
Further, during this same period, while Plaintiff complained of neck, hip and back pain, the
medical evidence shows that these conditions were relieved by medication and her x-rays were
unremarkable for these areas. (Tr. 27). The ALJ also pointed out that contrary to her testimony
at the administrative hearing, Plaintiff had earlier told Dr. Young that her live-in boyfriend did
not do much of anything. (Tr. 27). Further, the ALJ noted that Dr. Morton opined that it appeared
that Plaintiff is able to adequately self-care and attend to the activities of daily living. (Tr. 28).
The Court finds no error in the ALJ’s consideration of Plaintiff’s activities of daily living
in assessing her credibility. Under Eleventh Circuit case law, activities of daily living is a proper
factor to consider in determining a Plaintiff’s credibility. The ALJ’s opinion shows that this
factor was but one considered and the ALJ’s decision was not made on this factor alone.
Accordingly, the Court finds no reversible error.
Upon consideration of the submissions of the parties and the administrative record, the
Court finds that the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence. The decision of
the Commissioner is hereby AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
Clerk of Court is directed to enter Judgment accordingly, terminate any pending motions and
deadlines, and close the file.
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DONE and ORDERED in Fort Myers, Florida on September 16, 2014.
Copies furnished to:
Counsel of Record
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