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Sendejas v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 1, 2017

ROSA LINDA SENDEJAS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          PAUL D STICKNEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Rosa Linda Sendejas (“Plaintiff”) brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision denying her claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 405(g). For the following reasons, the final decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that she is disabled due to a variety of ailments, including pain in her back, neck, and hands, anxiety, inability to focus, and fatigue. Tr. 39-40, ECF No. 8-3. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a hearing was held on September 2, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, before Administrative Law Judge Donald R. Davis (the “ALJ”). Tr. 38, ECF No. 8-3. Also present at the hearing was Vocational Expert Kedra Parker (the “VE”). Tr. 38, ECF No. 8-3. Plaintiff was born on October 19, 1959 and was 55 years old at the time of the September 2, 2015 hearing. Tr. 39, ECF No. 8-3; Tr. 132, ECF No. 8-6. Plaintiff has a high school education. Tr. 39, ECF No. 8-3. The VE testified that Plaintiff's past relevant work as a loan administrator is a sedentary, skilled job. Tr. 49-50, ECF No. 8-3. On November 12, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date of February 11, 2014 through the date of his decision. Tr. 14 & 27, ECF No. 8-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: Sjogren's syndrome, anemia, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia syndrome, GERD, obesity, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, depression, and anxiety disorder. Tr. 14, ECF No. 8-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 19, ECF No. 8-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to sit for up to six hours and stand or walk for up to six hours in an eight-hour work day. Tr. 21, ECF No. 8-3. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff could lift ten pounds frequently and twenty pounds occasionally. Tr. 21, ECF No. 8-3. The ALJ further determined that Plaintiff could handle and finger frequently, that Plaintiff could work for 2-hour intervals between breaks, but that Plaintiff should not engage in fast pace, assembly line work. Tr. 21, ECF No. 8-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a loan administrator/collateral specialist, DOT code 241.137-010, because this work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by Plaintiff's RFC. Tr. 26, ECF No. 8-3.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A claimant must prove that she is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act to be entitled to social security benefits. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 563-64 (5th Cir. 1995); Abshire v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988). The definition of disability under the Act is “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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 292 (5th Cir. 1992).

         The Commissioner utilizes a sequential five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Those steps are that:

(1) an individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found disabled regardless of medical findings;
(2) an individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found to be disabled;
(3) an individual who meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of the regulations will be considered disabled without consideration of vocational factors;
(4) if an individual is capable of performing the work the individual has done in the past, a finding of “not disabled” will be made; and
(5) if an individual's impairment precludes the individual from performing the work the individual has done in the past, other factors including age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity must be considered to determine if other work can be performed.

Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(f)). The burden of proof lies with the claimant to prove disability under the first four steps of the five-step inquiry. Leggett, 67 F.3d at 564. The burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five of the inquiry to prove that other work, aside from the claimant's past work, can be performed by the claimant. Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 435 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Anderson v. Sullivan, 887 F.2d 630, 632-33 (5th Cir. 1989)).

         The Commissioner's determination is afforded great deference. Leggett, 67 F.3d at 564. Judicial review of the Commissioner's findings is limited to whether the decision to deny benefits is supported by substantial evidence and to whether the proper legal standards were utilized. Greenspan, 38 F.3d at 236 (citing 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3)). An “ALJ's decision is not subject to reversal, even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported the opposite conclusion, so long as substantial evidence supports the conclusion that was reached by the ALJ.” Corpany v. Colvin, No. 4:12-CV-878-A, 2014 WL 1255316, at *9 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 26, 2014) (citing Dollins v. Astrue, No. 4:08-CV-503-A, 2009 WL 1542466, at *5 (N.D. Tex. June 2, 2009)). Substantial evidence is defined as “that which is relevant and sufficient for a reasonable mind to accept as adequate to support a conclusion; it must be more than a scintilla, but it need not be a preponderance.” Legge ...


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