United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation (Doc. 16), to which objections have been filed
(Doc. 17) . After a careful review of the record, the Court
does not fully concur with the Magistrate Judge's Report
and Recommendation, which recommends that this Court affirm
the decision of the Social Security Commissioner ("the
Commissioner") and, therefore, the Court ADOPTS
IN PART and DECLINES TO ADOPT IN
PART the Magistrate Judge's report and
recommendation. The Court ADOPTS IN PART
that portion of the Report and Recommendation which found
that the ALJ's treatment of Ms. Farnum's opinion was
harmless error, that the ALJ did not err in his treatment of
Dr. Eaton's opinion, and that the ALJ did not err in his
treatment of Plaintiff's post-date-last-insured medical
records. (Doc. 16 at 7-13.) However, the Court
DECLINES TO ADOPT the portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation that found
the misstatement of Plaintiff's GAF score from Dr.
Eisenberg was harmless error and does not require remand.
Accordingly, this case is REVERSED and
REMANDED to the Social Security
Administration for further consideration. The reasons for the
Court's decision are set forth below.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of social security cases is limited to the question of
whether the agency's factual findings are supported by
"substantial evidence" and whether the correct
legal standards were applied. Dyer v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002).
Substantial evidence is something "more than a mere
scintilla, but less than a preponderance."
Dyer, 395 F.3d at 1210. If a decision is supported
by substantial evidence, a reviewing court must affirm the
decision "even if the proof preponderates against
it." Id. (quoting Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)).
ALJ's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed de novo.
Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528 (11th Cir. 1993).
"If the court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the
court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the
proper legal analysis has been conducted, the ALJ's
decision must be reversed." Lewis v. Berryhill,
No. 2:16-CV-181-VEH, 2017 WL 1132734, at *1 (N.D. Ala. Mar.
27, 2017) (citing Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d
1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991)).
THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
consideration of the record, the ALJ made the following
findings: (1) Plaintiff last met the insured status
requirement of the Social Security Act on September 30, 2010
(R. 26), (2) Plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from his
alleged onset date of October 3, 2009 through his date last
insured of September 30, 2010 (id.), (3) through the
date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe
impairment: anxiety disorder, NOS (20 CFR 404.1520 (c))
(id.), (4) through the date of last insured, the
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combined impairment
that met a listed impairment (id.). The ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at
all exertional levels with the nonexertional limitations of
avoiding ordinary hazards, performing simple routine and
repetitive tasks but not at production rate pace, and could
have occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and
the public (R. 27.) and that, through the date of last
insured, Plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work
(R. 34.). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
under a disability at any time from October 3, 2009, the
alleged onset date, through September 30, 2010, the date last
insured. (R. 36.)
The ALJ' s Misstatement of the GAF
report and recommendation found that the misstatement by the
ALJ of the Global Assessment of Functionality
("GAF") score that Dr. Eisenberg assessed Plaintiff
was ultimately harmless. (Doc. 16 at 6.) In his objections,
Plaintiff disagrees and argues that the misstatement of the
GAF score requires a remand because "Dr. Eisenberg's
opinion of serious limitation does contradict the ALJ's
findings that Shannon [Plaintiff] only had mild limitations
which is why he found Shannon [Plaintiff] unable to
work." (Doc. 17 at 3.) Plaintiff argues that while a
misstatement of facts in some cases may be harmless error
because they did not affect the ALJ's ultimate
conclusion, this case is not one of those. (Id. at
3-4) . The Court agrees for the reasons that follow and
declines to adopt the report and recommendation on this
the Court notes that it is not simply the GAF score that the
ALJ misstated in this case. The AL J's decision contains
numerous factual errors, such as misattributed diagnoses, GAF
scores, and other information from the medical opinion
evidence that was used by the ALJ to make his determination
of Plaintiff's RFC. These errors raise a significant
question about whether Dr. Eisenberg's opinion was
considered by the ALJ.
states that Plaintiff first presented to Gateway Behavioral
Health Services ("Gateway") on August 24, 2010 and
was seen by a licensed professional counselor
("LPC") (Jo L. Miller) regarding his symptoms of
PTSD and bipolar disorder. (R. 30.) In that same paragraph,
the ALJ goes on to state that Plaintiff then presented on
September 20, 2010 with Dr. Eisenberg and that "Dr.
Eisenberg noted claimant attended church and had friends and
diagnosed claimant with PTSD, biplar [sic] disorder and rated
claimant with a GAF score of 65, proscribing Prozac for his
anxiety and antidepressant and Seroquel for
anxiety/insomnia." (Id.) Elsewhere, the ALJ
states again that Plaintiff was seen in August 2010 by
"a medically- acceptable source and received a diagnosis
from this doctor of PTSD, bipolar [sic] disorder, and
assessed a GAF score of 65 (indicating no more than
'mild' problems)." (R. 32.)
a misstatement of the evidence. The evidence does show that
Plaintiff was first seen at Gateway by LPC Jo Miller on
August 24, 2010, and was diagnosed with "PTSD and
bi-polar D/O." However, Dr. Eisenberg's report
diagnosed Plaintiff with PTSD and MDD, not PTSD and bipolar
disorder (R. 374), assessed a GAF score of 42, not 65 (R.