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Hilton v. Berryhill

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

May 2, 2017

BRADLEY FELIX HILTON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          PAUL D STICKNEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Bradley Felix Hilton (“Plaintiff”) brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision denying his 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 he is disabled due to a variety of ailments including problems with his memory and concentration, insomnia, sleep apnea, bipolar disorder, depression, pain in his neck, shoulder, and back, and chronic fatigue. Tr. 63-64, ECF No. 12-3. After his application was denied initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was held on January 19, 2015 in Dallas, Texas before administrative law judge Stanley M. Schwartz (the “ALJ”) pursuant to Plaintiff's request. Tr. 53, ECF No. 12-3. Plaintiff was born on January 17, 1967, and at the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 49 years old. Tr. 57, ECF No. 12-3. Plaintiff has two college degrees. Tr. 58, ECF No. 12-3. Plaintiff has worked in the past as respiratory therapist. Tr. 58, ECF No. 12-3. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 4, 2014. Tr. 35, ECF No. 12-3.

         The ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff has not been under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date of October 4, 2014 through the date of his decision on February 24, 2016. Tr. 45-46, ECF No. 12-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder was a severe impairment. Tr. 35, ECF No. 12-3. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff had the following non-severe impairments: arthropathies, Hepatitis C, obesity, and pain in his lower back, neck, shoulders, and joints. Tr. 36, ECF No. 12-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or 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. 38, ECF No. 12-3.

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), but with the following limitations: (1) occasionally lift or carry 20 pounds; (2) frequently lift or carry 10 pounds; (3) walk or stand for six hours in an eight-hour work day; (4) sit for two hours in an eight-hour work day; (5) no overhead bilateral reaching; (6) simple one to two step tasks for up to two hours at a time; (7) no contact with the general public; (8) no team work; and (9) incidental or occasional contact with supervisors. Tr. 40, ECF No. 12-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform the tasks of the following occupations: office cleaner, photocopy machine operator, and a price tagger. Tr. 45, ECF No. 12-3. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, and on May 20, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request. Tr. 1, ECF No. 12-3. Plaintiff subsequently filed this action in the district court on July 18, 2016. Compl., ECF No. 1.

         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 ...

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