Posts Tagged With: United States Court of Appeals

Federal Appeals Courts Split on Health Care Subsidy

 

Good. This means that we are a nation of laws and the Rule of Law still applies. The Rule of the Political Party does not control; not yet, anyway. But wait, this is not over. The DOJ plans to appeal this decision to the full Washington DC Circuit Court. This was a 2-1 majority decision by 3 judges out of the full 11 on the DC Circuit. 4 of the 11were appointed by Obama and 7 of the 11 were appointed by Democrats. If the Rule of Law still governs in America, then an “en banc” decision by the full 11 judges will result in the same decision. But if political party trumps the Law then an appeal would result in the politically absurd ruling advanced by the Democrats who pushed thru the flawed and defective ObamaCare Law.

Two federal appeals court rulings put the issue of ObamaCare subsidies in limbo Tuesday, with one court invalidating some of them and the other upholding all of them.

The first decision came Tuesday morning from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The panel, in a major blow to the law, ruled 2-1 that the IRS went too far in extending subsidies to those who buy insurance through the federally run exchange, known as HealthCare.gov.

A separate federal appeals court in Virginia, next door to Washington, DC — the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — hours later issued its own ruling on a similar case that upheld the subsidies in their entirety.

The conflicting rulings would typically fast-track the matter to the Supreme Court. However, it is likely that the administration will ask the D.C. appeals court to first convene all 11 judges to re-hear that case.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stressed Tuesday that different courts have reached different conclusions on the subsidy issue, and said the latest ruling against the subsidies “does not have any practical impact” at this point on the ability of people to get tax credits. The White House later said the D.C. decision was “undermined” by the Fourth Circuit decision.

 

Still, the D.C. court ruling nevertheless strikes at the foundation of the law by challenging subsidies that millions of people obtained through the federally run exchange known as HealthCare.gov.

The suit maintained that the language in ObamaCare actually restricts subsidies to state-run exchanges — of which there are only 14 — and does not authorize them to be given in the 36 states that use the federally run system.

The court agreed.

“We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions  of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly,” the ruling stated.

The case, Halbig v. Burwell, is one of the first major legal challenges that cuts to the heart of the Affordable Care Act by going after the legality of massive federal subsidies and those who benefit from them.

The decision said the law “unambiguously restricts” the subsidies to insurance bought on state-run exchanges.

The dissenting opinion, though, claimed political motivations were at play. “This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘ACA’),” the dissent stated.

The ruling, though likely to be appealed, could threaten the entire foundation of the newly devised health care system. Nearly 90 percent of the federal exchange’s insurance enrollees were eligible for subsidies because of low or moderate incomes, and the outcome of the case could potentially leave millions without affordable health insurance.

“Today’s decision rightly holds the Obama administration accountable to the law,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a written statement adding, “… As it has on so many occasions, the Obama administration simply ignored the law and implemented its own policy instead.”

The next step for the Obama administration would be that they request a so-called en banc ruling, which means there would be a vote taken by all of the judges on the court. An appeals court can only overrule a decision made by a panel if the court is sitting en banc.

Earnest said the Department of Justice will likely appeal to the full D.C. Circuit Court and defended the administration’s position that Congress intended “all eligible Americans” to have access to the subsidies regardless of which entity set up the exchange.

“We are confident in the legal position that we have,” Earnest said.

Ron Pollack, founding executive director of Families USA, said in a written statement that the ruling “represents the high-water mark for Affordable Care Act opponents, but the water will recede very quickly.”

He added, “It will inevitably be placed on hold pending further proceedings; will probably be reheard by all of the 11-member active D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals members, who predictably will reverse it; and runs contrary to” the ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals process could eventually lead to the U.S. Supreme Court deciding on the legality of the subsidies, but Pollack, whose group supports the law, believes that won’t happen.

Of the 11 judges that could rehear the case, seven are Democrats and four are Republicans.

Halbig v. Burwell, which previously had been called Halbig v. Sebelius, is one of four federal lawsuits that have been filed aimed at targeting the idea of tax credits and other subsidies afforded under ObamaCare.

A total of $1 trillion in subsidies is projected to be doled out over the next decade.

A U.S. District Court previously sided with the Obama administration on Jan. 15.

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How To Win Your Disability Case And Make The Government Pay For Your Attorney

THOMAS v. ASTRUE

LAURA M. THOMAS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant-Appellee.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

Before TYMKOVICH and BALDOCK, Circuit Judges, and BRORBY, Senior Circuit Judge.

ORDER AND JUDGMENT
TIMOTHY M. TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judge.
This appeal requires us to consider a magistrate judge’s discretion to deny attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. After a magistrate judge remanded Laura M. Thomas’s disability claim to the Commissioner of Social Security for further analysis, Ms. Thomas applied for attorney’s fees under the EAJA. The magistrate judge denied her application for fees, Ms. Thomas appealed, and we now affirm.
Ms. Thomas originally applied for disability insurance benefits, claiming she was disabled on October 28, 2004, by deep vein thrombosis and obesity. Her case proceeded to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), at which a medical expert testified that Ms. Thomas became disabled in May 2007. Without discussing this testimony, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Thomas did indeed become disabled on May 1, 2007, but her insured status had already expired on December 31, 2006. Consequently, the ALJ denied benefits, prompting Ms. Thomas to seek judicial review in the district court.
Ms. Thomas argued for a remand on the ground (among others) that the ALJ improperly evaluated the medical expert’s opinion. She acknowledged that the expert’s opinion concerning her date of onset was predicated on evidence of neurological damage in her lower extremities discovered in 2007. But she argued that there was other evidence documenting neurological changes as early as February 2005, yet the ALJ did not explain why he credited the expert’s opinion over this other evidence. The magistrate judge agreed that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical expert’s opinion, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(f)(2)(ii) (requiring ALJ to evaluate opinion evidence under relevant factors and explain weight accorded to opinion), and he therefore remanded the case to the agency to allow the ALJ to explain the weight accorded to the expert’s opinion.
Having succeeded in obtaining a remand, Ms. Thomas returned to the magistrate judge and requested $5,995.10 in attorney’s fees pursuant to § 2412(d). In her application, she argued that the remand order was a favorable final judgment and the Commissioner’s position was not substantially justified. The Commissioner, for his part, opposed a fee award, asserting that the issues before the magistrate judge “involve[d] a genuine dispute, reasonable people could differ as to the appropriateness of the matter, and the ALJ’s decision was justified `for the most part.'”  The Commissioner explained that the ALJ’s decision was affirmed on all grounds except the medical expert’s opinion, which only required further discussion of the weight assigned; otherwise, the ALJ’s finding of May 1, 2007, as the date of onset was consistent with the expert’s opinion. Hence, the Commissioner maintained that his position was substantially justified and fees should therefore be denied. The magistrate judge agreed with the Commissioner and held that “[t]he government’s position . . . was not only substantially justified, any reasonable person would have viewed it as substantively correct, but technically defective.”
We review the denial of an EAJA claim for abuse of discretion. The EAJA entitles a prevailing party to recover reasonable attorney fees from the government “`unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust.'”  “The test for substantial justification in this circuit is one of reasonableness in law and fact.”  In other words, “the government’s position must be justified to a degree that could satisfy a reasonable person,” but it need not necessarily be correct. 
We agree that the government’s position was substantially justified. The dispositive issue for the magistrate judge was whether the ALJ properly evaluated the medical expert’s opinion. The ALJ cited substantial evidence demonstrating that Ms. Thomas’s condition had deteriorated until she was disabled in May 2007, but he did not discuss how (if at all) he weighed the medical expert’s opinion. Although the Commissioner defended the ALJ’s decision, he did so on substantially justifiable grounds, noting that the ALJ was not obligated to find that Ms. Thomas was disabled after her insured status expired. He also emphasized that the ALJ’s finding of disability in May 2007 was consistent with the expert’s opinion, which was itself substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s decision.
These arguments were rejected by the magistrate judge, but that does not render the government’s position unreasonable. Rather, as the magistrate judge observed, “the record clearly supported the ALJ’s decision so long as the ALJ simply stated the weight he assigned to the medical expert’s opinion.”  Indeed, the magistrate judge “fully anticipated that on remand the ALJ would promptly revise his decision to identify the weight he gave the medical expert without altering his ultimate conclusion that [Ms. Thomas] was not disabled prior to the onset date found by the ALJ.”  These circumstances demonstrate that the magistrate judge acted within his discretion in denying attorney’s fees.
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
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Social Security Benefits Can Be Terminated If A Judge Determines There Has Been Medical Improvement

SIMONE v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

BARBARA A. SIMONE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant-Appellee.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Before HULL, MARCUS and BLACK, Circuit Judges.



Barbara Simone appeals from the district court’s order which affirmed the Administrative Law Judge‘s (“ALJ”) termination of her disability insurance benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
On appeal, Simone argues that:
(1) substantial evidence did not support the ALJ’s determination that Simone’s medical condition had substantially improved as of May 1, 2005;
(2) substantial evidence did not support the ALJ’s determination that the improvement in Simone’s medical condition was related to her ability to do work; and
(3) the ALJ erred by failing to give greater weight to the opinion of Simone’s treating physician, Dr. Robert Bianco, regarding her ability to work. After thorough review, we affirm.
We review a Social Security decision “to determine if it is supported by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.”  Substantial evidence consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). The burden rests with the claimant to prove that she is disabled and entitled to Social Security benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a).
An ALJ may terminate a claimant’s benefits upon finding that there has been medical improvement in the claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments related to the claimant’s ability to work and the claimant is now able to engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(f)(1). To determine whether disability benefits should be terminated, the ALJ must conduct a multi-step evaluation process and determine:
(1) Whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity;
(2) If not gainfully employed, whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments which meets or equals a listing;
(3) If impairments do not meet a listing, whether there has been medical improvement;
(4) If there has been improvement, whether the improvement is related to the claimant’s ability to do work;
(5) If there is improvement related to claimant’s ability to do work, whether an exception to medical improvement applies;
(6) If medical improvement is related to the claimant’s ability to do work or if one of the first groups of exceptions to medical improvement applies, whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(7) If the claimant has a severe impairment, whether the claimant can perform past relevant work;
(8) If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, whether the claimant can perform other work.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(f).
First, we reject Simone’s claim that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s determination that Simone’s medical condition had substantially improved because the ALJ ignored evidence that she also continuously suffered from other severe cardiovascular conditions, specifically carotid artery disease.
To determine if there has been medical improvement, the ALJ must compare the medical evidence supporting the most recent final decision holding that the claimant is disabled with new medical evidence.  “Medical improvement” is defined as “any decrease in the medical severity of [the] impairment(s) which was present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision that [the claimant was] disabled . . . .” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(b)(1); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(c)(1).
Here, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding that there had been substantial improvement in Simone’s medical condition as of May 1, 2005.
As Simone’s medical records demonstrate, a February 23, 2005, echocardiogram showed that her cardiomyopathy had improved — showing an improved ejection fraction of approximately 50 percent, on the lower limit of normal — so that it no longer met the Medical Listing. Moreover, Simone’s treating cardiologist, Dr. Bianco, said in letters and treatment notes on several occasions between February 2002 and April 2005 that Simone’s cardiomyopathy was stable, she was doing well, and she was able to exercise, at one point walking up to one mile each day. Dr. John Bolla’s March and April 2005 notes and communications also support the ALJ’s finding of substantial medical improvement, as he reported that Simone exercised 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week; carotid artery sonography revealed mild stenosis of 30 percent bilateral internal carotid arteries, resulting in a diagnosis of “minor carotid artery disease”; she was doing very well, with no clinical signs of congestive heart failure; the most recent echocardiogram had demonstrated a normal ejection fraction of 50 percent; and the holter monitor had not demonstrated any significant abnormalities.
Although March 13, 2000, arteriograms showed mild to moderate (less than 50 percent) narrowing of the internal carotid arteries, high grade stenosis (greater than 90 percent) at the origin of the external carotid arteries, and moderate stenosis (50 to 60 percent) at the origin of the left vertebral artery, other medical records between 2000 and May 1, 2005, demonstrated that Simone’s carotid artery disease was not a major focus of her medical treatment and that it perhaps even improved during this time period. Dr. Bianco’s medical notes included carotid artery disease in his assessment on April 25, 2001, but most of his later assessments did not include that diagnosis. Dr. Bianco also noted no symptoms of carotid artery disease, such as a carotid bruit, between April 25, 2001, and April 2005. Furthermore, as the ALJ noted, Simone’s February 25, 2005, Doppler sonography tests revealed mild (30 percent) bilateral internal carotid artery stenosis — which is a significant improvement over the March 2000 test results. And finally, the fact that, in 2008, Simone underwent two surgeries to treat her carotid artery disease is not relevant to whether her medical impairment had medically improved as of May 1, 2005, the date on which her disability ended.
We are also unpersuaded by Simone’s claim that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ’s determination that the improvement in Simone’s medical condition was related to her ability to do work. If the ALJ determines that there has been medical improvement, then he must determine whether that improvement is related to the claimant’s ability to do work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(f)(4). The regulations provide that “[m]edical improvement is related to [the claimant’s] ability to work if there has been a decrease in the severity . . . of the impairment(s) present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision and an increase in [the claimant’s] capacity to do basic work activities . . . .” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(b)(3). The regulations provide specific instructions for how this determination will be made if the claimant’s previous disability determination was based on the fact that her impairment met or equaled the severity contemplating by the Listing of Impairments:
If [the Social Security Administration’s] most recent favorable decision was based on the fact that [the claimant’s] impairment(s) at the time met or equaled the severity contemplated by the Listing of Impairments in appendix 1 of this subpart, an assessment of [the claimant’s] residual functional capacity would not have been made. If medical improvement has occurred and the severity of the prior impairment(s) no longer meets or equals the same listing section used to make [the] most recent favorable decision, [the Social Security Administration] will find that the medical improvement was related to [the claimant’s] ability to work.. . . If there has been medical improvement to the degree that the requirement of the listing section is no longer met or equaled, then the medical improvement is related to [the claimant’s] ability to work.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(c)(3)(i).
In this case, the ALJ properly determined that, because the February 2005 echocardiogram showed an improved ejection fraction of 50 percent, in combination with evidence from her other medical records, Simone no longer had an impairment or combination of impairments equal to the same listing that was met at the time of her last disability determination. Simone’s initial disability determination was based on her diagnosis for cardiomyopathy and the fact that the results of the November 2001 echocardiogram showed an ejection fraction of 15 percent. This diagnosis met the requirements for Medical Listing 4.02(B), which, among other factors, required a documented ejection fraction of 30 percent or less. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, Medical Listing 4.02(B) (2002). Thus, no assessment of Simone’s residual functional capacity was made at the time of her initial disability determination. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(c)(3)(i). Because Simone no longer met or equaled the same listing that she met when she was previously found disabled, substantial evidence necessarily supports the ALJ’s finding that her medical improvement was related to her ability to do work. See id.
Finally, we find no merit to Simone’s argument that the ALJ erred by failing to give greater weight to the opinion of Simone’s treating physician, Dr. Bianco, regarding her ability to work. “[T]he opinion of a treating physician is entitled to substantial weight unless good cause exists for not heeding the treating physician’s diagnosis.”  see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2) (providing that, generally, more weight is given to opinions from treating sources). However, we have found “good cause” to afford less weight to a treating physician’s opinion where the opinion is conclusory or inconsistent with the physician’s own medical records or where the evidence supports a contrary finding. Furthermore, the ALJ “is free to reject the opinion of any physician when the evidence supports a contrary conclusion.” 
On this record, the ALJ did not err by discounting the Dr. Bianco’s opinions regarding Simone’s ability to work. As for Dr. Bianco’s residual functional capacity evaluation, Dr. Bianco provided no information about any clinical data or other objective medical evidence on which he based his opinion, only signing the form in the space provided for that information. Dr. Bianco’s response to Simone’s counsel’s letter requesting confirmation that the residual functional capacity evaluation was not contradicted by his treatment notes provided no additional support for his opinion. And, the December 29, 2005, and April 4, 2007, letters Dr. Bianco wrote “[t]o whom it may concern,” expressing his opinion that Simone was still disabled and unable to work, were also not supported by any medical evidence.
Moreover, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s determination that Dr. Bianco’s opinions regarding Simone’s ability to work were contradicted by his treatment notes and other medical evidence. As discussed previously, the February 2005 echocardiogram demonstrated an improved ejection fraction of approximately 50 percent, on the lower limit of normal. In addition, Dr. Bianco’s own letters and treatment notes reported on several occasions between February 2002 and April 2005 that Simone’s cardiomyopathy was stable, she was doing well, she was able to walk up to one mile each day, and she stayed active caring for her mother. Further, Dr. Bolla’s notes and communications demonstrated that Simone exercised 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, she was doing very well, with no clinical signs of congestive heart failure; the 2005 echocardiogram demonstrated a normal ejection fraction of 50 percent; and the holter monitor had not demonstrated any significant abnormalities. Lastly, the ALJ adequately set forth his reasons for discounting Dr. Bianco’s opinions regarding Simone’s ability to work, as he explained that he gave no weight to Dr. Bianco’s opinions because they were inconsistent with Bianco’s treatment notes and objective medical evidence. Accordingly, we affirm.
AFFIRMED.
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Widow Lost Her Appeal Of Denial Of Social Security Benefits. She Had No Lawyer.

Female Claimant Without An Attorney Lost Her Appeal Of Denial Of Widow’s Benefits By Social Security.

by London Steverson on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 6:07pm ·

MILES v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

PATRICIA ANN MILES v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, COMMISSIONER.

No. 11-13042, Non-Argument Calendar.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Filed March 15, 2012.

Before BARKETT, MARTIN and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM.

Patricia Ann Miles appeals, pro se, (that means she did not have an attorney. She tried to do it herself. That is her right, but a person who represents herself, has a fool for a client.) the district court’s order affirming the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) denial of her application for widow’s insurance benefits . Miles argues that the Administrative Law Judge‘s (“ALJ”) determination regarding her March 1998 residual functioning capacity (“RFC“) was not supported by substantial evidence.1 More specifically, she contends that the ALJ erred by: (1) not considering the record evidence reflecting three doctors’ opinions that she was unable to work due to severe damage to her back; (2) discounting the opinion of her chiropractor that she was completely disabled; and (3) finding that her testimony was not fully credible.

Our review in this case is limited to the materials contained in the certified administrative record.2 We review the SSA’s legal conclusions de novo, and its factual findings to determine whether they are supported by substantial evidence.  Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”. “If the [SSA’s] decision is supported by substantial evidence we must affirm, even if the proof preponderates against it.”

Under the Social Security Act, the widow of a fully-insured individual is entitled to benefits if she establishes that she is at least 50, but less than 60 years of age, and is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.335(c). Thus, to collect widow’s Social Security benefits, Miles had to prove that she was disabled, as defined under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505. The ALJ found, and the parties did not contest, that the prescribed period within which Miles had to demonstrate her disability ran from March 1, 1991 to March 31, 1998. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.336(c) (detailing the eligibility period for widow’s Social Security benefits).

The Social Security Regulations outline a five-step evaluation process used to determine whether a claimant is disabled.  The evaluation considers each step in turn, asking: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) whether, based on an RFC assessment, the claimant can perform any of her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform, given the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and work experience.

The ALJ determined that Miles met the first two steps of the SSR’s five-step process. At the third step, however, the ALJ found that Miles’s impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ also found that Miles retained the RFC to perform her past relevant work (PRW), despite her impairment, during the claim period (1991-1998). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(e), (f). Concluding that Miles had the requisite RFC, the ALJ had no need to proceed to the fifth and final step of the analysis. See id. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv).

 

Miles argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s findings relating to her RFC during the prescribed period, and she asserts three specific errors that led to the ALJ’s allegedly erroneous conclusion. First, Miles argues that the ALJ did not consider all the record’s medical evidence, and that he did not accord proper weight to the statements of her treating physicians. Miles is correct that the record contains evidence from a few doctors suggesting that, as early as 2001, she was disabled. But that evidence does not guarantee the success of her claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(1), 416.927(e)(1) (clarifying that a treating physician’s opinion that a claimant is “disabled” is not dispositive, as that ultimate conclusion is a regulatory determination left to the ALJ). Here the ALJ found “good cause” not to heed those medical opinions, determining that they were without any explanation or basis in clinical findings, and were contradicted by the other record evidence. See Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1240-41 (listing these as permissible bases for finding “good cause” to disregard the opinion of a treating physician). Instead, the ALJ relied on the more detailed medical opinions provided by three other examining physicians to find that, prior to April 1, 2003, Miles had the RFC to perform light work, except for repetitive lifting.

Second, Miles argues that the ALJ erred by discounting her chiropractor’s opinion that she was completely disabled. However, an ALJ has no duty to give significant or controlling weight to a chiropractor’s views because, for SSA purposes, a chiropractor is not a “medical source” who can offer medical opinions. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1513, 416.913, 404.1527(a)(2); Crawford v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1160 (11th Cir. 2004). Further, as stated above, even a medical source’s statement that a claimant is “unable to work” or “disabled” does not bind the ALJ, who alone makes the ultimate determination as to disability under the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(1), 416.927(e)(1).

Third, Miles disputes that the ALJ’s determination as to her credibility was supported by substantial evidence, where the ALJ found that Miles’s testimony regarding the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms were “not entirely credible prior to April 1, 2003.” The ALJ is permitted to reach a conclusion that differs from the subjective testimony of a claimant. See Marbury v. Sullivan, 957 F.2d 837, 839 (11th Cir. 1992) (“After considering a claimant’s complaints of pain, the ALJ may reject them as not creditable . . . .”). In making this finding, the ALJ was required to articulate his reasons for discrediting the subjective testimony. See Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1562 (11th Cir. 1995) (“A clearly articulated credibility finding with substantial supporting evidence in the record will not be disturbed by a reviewing court.”). The ALJ did so here, concluding that, despite Miles’s testimony to the contrary, the entirety of the record evidence showed that she possessed the ability to perform significant work activities.

The ALJ reviewed all the evidence before him, accorded more weight to some evidence than to other evidence, and explained his reasons for doing so. We therefore conclude that the ALJ’s determinations are supported by substantial evidence, and we will not disturb his decision. See Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400.

AFFIRMED.

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Female Claimant Without An Attorney Lost her Appeal Of Social Security Denial.

MILES v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

PATRICIA ANN MILES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, COMMISSIONER, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 11-13042, Non-Argument Calendar.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Filed March 15, 2012.

Before BARKETT, MARTIN and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

Patricia Ann Miles appeals, pro se, the district court’s order affirming the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) denial of her application for widow’s insurance benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 402(e). Miles argues that the Administrative Law Judge‘s (“ALJ”) determination regarding her March 1998 residual functioning capacity (“RFC“) was not supported by substantial evidence.1 More specifically, she contends that the ALJ erred by: (1) not considering the record evidence reflecting three doctors’ opinions that she was unable to work due to severe damage to her back; (2) discounting the opinion of her chiropractor that she was completely disabled; and (3) finding that her testimony was not fully credible.
Our review in this case is limited to the materials contained in the certified administrative record.2 We review the SSA’s legal conclusions de novo, and its factual findings to determine whether they are supported by substantial evidence. Ingram v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007); see, e.g., Moore v Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1212-13 (11th Cir. 2005) (reviewing RFC finding for substantial evidence). Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996) (quotation marks omitted). “If the [SSA’s] decision is supported by substantial evidence we must affirm, even if the proof preponderates against it.” Id.
Under the Social Security Act, the widow of a fully-insured individual is entitled to benefits if she establishes that she is at least 50, but less than 60 years of age, and is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.335(c). Thus, to collect widow’s Social Security benefits, Miles had to prove that she was disabled, as defined under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505. The ALJ found, and the parties did not contest, that the prescribed period within which Miles had to demonstrate her disability ran from March 1, 1991 to March 31, 1998. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.336(c) (detailing the eligibility period for widow’s Social Security benefits).
The Social Security Regulations outline a five-step evaluation process used to determine whether a claimant is disabled. See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-39 (11th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920(a)(1), (4)(i)-(v). The evaluation considers each step in turn, asking: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) whether, based on an RFC assessment, the claimant can perform any of her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform, given the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and work experience. See Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1237-39.
The ALJ determined that Miles met the first two steps of the SSR’s five-step process. At the third step, however, the ALJ found that Miles’s impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ also found that Miles retained the RFC to perform her past relevant work, despite her impairment, during the claim period (1991-1998). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(e), (f). Concluding that Miles had the requisite RFC, the ALJ had no need to proceed to the fifth and final step of the analysis. See id. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
Miles argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s findings relating to her RFC during the prescribed period, and she asserts three specific errors that led to the ALJ’s allegedly erroneous conclusion. First, Miles argues that the ALJ did not consider all the record’s medical evidence, and that he did not accord proper weight to the statements of her treating physicians. Miles is correct that the record contains evidence from a few doctors suggesting that, as early as 2001, she was disabled. But that evidence does not guarantee the success of her claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(1), 416.927(e)(1) (clarifying that a treating physician’s opinion that a claimant is “disabled” is not dispositive, as that ultimate conclusion is a regulatory determination left to the ALJ). Here the ALJ found “good cause” not to heed those medical opinions, determining that they were without any explanation or basis in clinical findings, and were contradicted by the other record evidence. See Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1240-41 (listing these as permissible bases for finding “good cause” to disregard the opinion of a treating physician). Instead, the ALJ relied on the more detailed medical opinions provided by three other examining physicians to find that, prior to April 1, 2003, Miles had the RFC to perform light work, except for repetitive lifting.
Second, Miles argues that the ALJ erred by discounting her chiropractor’s opinion that she was completely disabled. However, an ALJ has no duty to give significant or controlling weight to a chiropractor’s views because, for SSA purposes, a chiropractor is not a “medical source” who can offer medical opinions. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1513, 416.913, 404.1527(a)(2); Crawford v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1160 (11th Cir. 2004). Further, as stated above, even a medical source’s statement that a claimant is “unable to work” or “disabled” does not bind the ALJ, who alone makes the ultimate determination as to disability under the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(1), 416.927(e)(1).
Third, Miles disputes that the ALJ’s determination as to her credibility was supported by substantial evidence, where the ALJ found that Miles’s testimony regarding the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms were “not entirely credible prior to April 1, 2003.” The ALJ is permitted to reach a conclusion that differs from the subjective testimony of a claimant. See Marbury v. Sullivan, 957 F.2d 837, 839 (11th Cir. 1992) (“After considering a claimant’s complaints of pain, the ALJ may reject them as not creditable . . . .”). In making this finding, the ALJ was required to articulate his reasons for discrediting the subjective testimony. See Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1562 (11th Cir. 1995) (“A clearly articulated credibility finding with substantial supporting evidence in the record will not be disturbed by a reviewing court.”). The ALJ did so here, concluding that, despite Miles’s testimony to the contrary, the entirety of the record evidence showed that she possessed the ability to perform significant work activities.
The ALJ reviewed all the evidence before him, accorded more weight to some evidence than to other evidence, and explained his reasons for doing so. We therefore conclude that the ALJ’s determinations are supported by substantial evidence, and we will not disturb his decision. See Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400.
AFFIRMED.

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