United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division
MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION
SCOTT FROST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Linda Mundt seeks judicial review
of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who
denied her application for Supplemental Security Income under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The United States
District Judge reassigned the case to this court pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties have unanimously
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.
After considering the pleadings, briefs, and administrative
record, the undersigned affirms the Commissioner's
decision and dismisses Mundt's complaint.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
filed her application for SSI on June 25, 2012. That
application was denied initially on February 6, 2013 and
after reconsideration on June 10, 2013. Mundt requested a
hearing, which was held before an Administrative Law Judge on
June 26, 2014. The ALJ issued a decision on September 15,
2014 finding Mundt not disabled.
the ALJ found during step one that Mundt had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 25, 2012. (Doc. 14-3,
14). At step two, the ALJ determined Mundt had the severe
impairments of post-concussion syndrome, cervical muscle
spasms, carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical strain, lumbar
sprain, bilateral knee sprain, a reconstructed right ACL,
chronic pain syndrome, degenerative joint disease of the
bilateral knees, vestibular concussion, chronic headache,
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine,
posttraumatic stress disorder, a cognitive disorder with
generalized loss of capacity and severe memory problems,
depression, anxiety, borderline intellectual function, and
panic attacks with claustrophobic symptoms. Id. In
the third step, the ALJ found those severe impairments did
not meet and were not equivalent to any listed impairments.
Id. at 15. The step three analysis continued, with
the ALJ finding Mundt retained the residual functional
capacity to perform light work with limitations to lift and
carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, stand
or walk with normal breaks for six hours of an eight-hour
workday, occasionally perform pushing and pulling activities
with the bilateral upper and lower extremities, occasionally
climb ramps or stairs, never climb ladders or scaffolding,
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, or crawl, avoid dangerous
machinery and unprotected heights, avoid commercial driving,
and carry out simple instructions with "no more than
occasional interaction with the public or co-workers."
Id. at 17. At step four, the ALJ determined she
could not return to past relevant work, and at step five
accepted vocational expert testimony that there were
sufficient jobs Mundt could perform and found her not
disabled. Id. at 27.
applied to the Appeals Council, which denied review on
October 21, 2015. Therefore, the ALJ's decision is the
Commissioner's final decision and properly before the
court for review. Higginbotham v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d
332, 336 (5th Cir. 2005) ("[T]he Commissioner's
final decision includes the Appeals Council's denial of
[a claimant's] request for review.").
to her pleadings, testimony, and the administrative record,
Mundt was 51 years old and living with her fourteen year-old
daughter at the time of the administrative hearing. She has
experience working the front desk for a boat repair company.
She believes her physical and mental impairments render her
disabled under the Act.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled if she is unable 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
twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 1382(c)(a)(3)(A),
423 (d)(1)(A) (2012). '"Substantial gainful
activity' is work activity involving significant physical
or mental abilities for pay or profit." Masterson v.
Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 271 n.2 (5th Cir. 2002); 20
C.F.R. § 404.1572(a)-(b).
evaluate a disability claim, the Commissioner follows a
five-step sequential analysis to determine whether (1) the
claimant is presently working; (2) the claimant has a severe
impairment; (3) the impairment meets or equals an impairment
listed in appendix 1 of the social security regulations; (4)
the impairment prevents the claimant from doing past relevant
work; and (5) the impairment prevents the claimant from doing
any other substantial gainful activity.
Audler v. Astrue, 501 F.3d 446, 447-48 (5th Cir.
2007); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). "The claimant bears the
burden of showing she is disabled through the first four
steps of the analysis; on the fifth, the Commissioner must
show that there is other substantial work in the national
economy that the claimant can perform." Audler,
501 F.3d at 448. Before proceeding to steps 4 and 5, the
Commissioner must assess a claimant's RFC. Perez v.
Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005). RFC is
defined as "the most [a claimant] can still do despite
[the claimant's] limitations." 20 C.F.R. §
court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny
disability benefits is limited to an inquiry into whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings
and whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal
standards. Sun v. Colvin,793 F.3d 502, 508 (5th
Cir. 2015) (quoting Boyd v. Apfel,239 F.3d 698, 704
(5th Cir. 2001)). "Substantial evidence is 'such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to
support a conclusion' and constitutes 'more than a
mere scintilla' but 'less than a preponderance'
of evidence." Hardman v, Colvin,820 F.3d 142,
147 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Newton v. Apfel, 209
F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000)). If substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's findings, then ...