United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
B. S. G., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
T. TREADWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
B.S.G. seeks judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Upon review of the record, the Commissioner's
decision is AFFIRMED.
B.S.G. filed for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental security income benefits (SSI) in May 2014,
alleging disability beginning on June 1, 2011. (Admin. Tr.,
Doc. 11-5, pp. 1, 9). DIB eligibility requires a claimant to
“demonstrate disability on or before the last date
for which she [was] insured.” Moore v.
Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing
42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(A)). Plaintiff's date last
insured is December 31, 2011. (Admin. Tr., Doc. 11-2, p. 14).
Noting that none of Plaintiff's medical evidence predates
2014, the Commissioner found that Plaintiff “fail[ed]
to establish the existence of any medically determinable
impairment prior to the date last insured.”
(Id., p. 15). Plaintiff does not challenge that
finding by the Commissioner before this Court.
claims to be disabled due to the following impairments:
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); chronic lower
back pain; borderline intellectual functioning; and
depression, with associated symptoms such as irritability,
diminished social functioning, and diminished concentration.
(Pl.'s Br., Doc. 16, p. 4). Plaintiff's arguments to
the Court focus on her asserted psychological impairments.
Plaintiff's disability applications were denied initially
and on reconsideration at the state-agency level of review
(Admin. Tr., Doc. 11-4, pp. 2, 5, 15, 19), Plaintiff
requested a hearing and the opportunity for further review
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). At
her hearing, Plaintiff testified that her back pain and
depression arose from a traffic accident Plaintiff suffered
“approximately 30 years ago” (Admin. Tr., Doc.
11-7, p. 47), while she was three months pregnant. (Admin.
Tr., Doc. 11-2, p. 54). Plaintiff claims that her depression
worsened in 2011 upon the death of her “partner for
better than 16 years.” (Id., p. 57).
October 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. (Id., pp. 11-28). The ALJ found that
Plaintiff “retained most of her functionality despite
her mental conditions.” (Id., p. 26). In
support of this finding, the ALJ cited the opinion of Dr.
Scott Duncan, a consultative psychological examiner who
concluded that Plaintiff “would not be limited in her
daily adaptive functioning because of mental health
issues.” (Id., p. 23). See (Admin.
Tr., Ex. 8F). The ALJ further found that treatment notes,
primarily from Southside Medical Center, evidenced
“significant improvement of the claimant's
depressive symptoms.” (Admin. Tr., Doc. 11-2, p. 22).
Plaintiff subsequently sought to appeal the ALJ's
unfavorable decision, but in June 2018, the Appeals Council
denied review in Plaintiff's case. (Id., p. 2).
now seeks judicial review before this Court on the following
two grounds. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by
declining to credit different medical evidence from (a) Dr.
Gary Kittrell, another consultative psychological examiner
(Admin. Tr., Ex. 2F), and (b) Dr. John Cooper and Dr. David
Massey, two state-agency medical reviewers. See
(Admin. Tr., Doc. 11-3, pp. 10-12, pp. 39-41). Second,
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by discounting
Plaintiff's description of her own symptoms, as well as
the corroborating report of Ms. Kathy Loyd, Plaintiff's
friend and roommate. (Admin. Tr., Ex. 16E).
discussed below, ALJ adequately articulated her rationale
both for discounting Plaintiff's description of her
symptoms, and also for crediting some of the medical records
over others. Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
stated rationale, and therefore, Plaintiff's arguments
provide no basis for altering the Commissioner's
social security appeals, the Court is tasked with determining
“whether the Commissioner's decision is supported
by substantial evidence and based on proper legal
standards.” Winschel v. Comm'r, 631 F.3d
1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted).
The Court “may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment” for that of the
the Commissioner's legal conclusions are subject to
de novo review, the Commissioner's factual
findings “are conclusive if supported by substantial
evidence.” Ingram v. Comm'r, 496 F.3d
1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence, in turn,
means “more than a scintilla” of evidence, or
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178. Accordingly, as to
factual findings, the Court must affirm “[e]ven if the
evidence preponderates against” the Commissioner's
decision. Ingram, 496 F.3d at 1260.