United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
HARRIS TOLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to the parties' consent to proceed before the
undersigned, Doc. 15, this case has been reassigned to the
Magistrate Judge. The Court now considers the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that
follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment,
Doc. 22, is DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, Doc. 23, is GRANTED, and the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner
denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (“the
Act”). In August 2013, Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI,
claiming that she had become disabled at that time due to
diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, cholesterol,
gallstones, heart problems, vision problems, sleep problems,
headaches, fatigue, stiffness, chest pains, and affective
mood disorders. Doc. 14-1 at 29; Doc. 14-1 at 51-53; Doc.
14-2 at 56-59; Doc. 14-2 at 78. Her application was denied at
all administrative levels, and she now appeals to this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Doc. 14-1 at 25; Doc.
14-1 at 52; Doc. 14-1 at 79-81, 85, 90; Doc. 14-12 at 43.
time of her alleged onset of disability, Plaintiff was 58
years old, had only attended school through the first grade,
and was unable to read or write in either English or Spanish.
Doc. 14-2 at 52, 56; Doc. 14-12 at 50. She had previous work
experience as a cook. Doc. 14-1 at 38-39.
medical visits during the relevant time frame, Plaintiff
reported pain in her abdomen, wrists, hands, and knees, as
well as neck and shoulder pain on the right side, and
neuropathy in her fingers and toes. Doc. 14-4 at 85-86; Doc.
14-4 at 98; Doc. 14-7 at 27; Doc. 14-7 at 35; Doc. 14-7 at
48; Doc. 14-8 at 94; Doc. 14-9 at 76; Doc. 14-9 at 69; Doc.
14-10 at 3; Doc. 14-10 at 10; Doc. 14-12 at 37. Plaintiff had
decreased dexterity in both hands (although her grip strength
was normal) and she was diagnosed with cataracts. Doc. 14-5
at 1-2; Doc. 14-10 at 4. On multiple occasions, Plaintiff was
diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and neuropathy, among
other conditions. Doc. 14-9 at 74; Doc. 14-9 at 87; Doc. 14-9
at 95; Doc. 14-10 at 7; Doc. 14-12 at 4; Doc. 14-12 at 21;
Doc. 14-12 at 29. After Plaintiff's diabetes remained
uncontrolled on oral medication, she was started on insulin.
Doc. 14-9 at 59-60, 62, 65.
was positive for blurred vision on a couple of occasions, at
least one of which appears to have been the result of her
losing her prescription eyeglasses. Doc. 14-12 at 36; Doc.
14-10 at 4. Generally, however, she did not complain of
blurred vision or vision changes and had normal eye
examinations. Doc. 14-9 at 81; Doc. 14-9 at 93-94; Doc. 14-9
at 97, 99; Doc. 14-10 at 1; Doc. 14-10 at 9; Doc. 14-12 at
26; Doc. 14-12 at 29-30.
The ALJ's Findings
2015, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Act, first finding that
Plaintiff's “severe impairments” were obesity
and affective disorder/major depressive disorder. Doc. 14-1
at 21. The ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
the criteria of any listed impairment. Doc. 14-1 at 2219-20.
Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work, in that she could lift and/or carry 50 pounds
occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, stand/walk/sit for six
hours in an eight-hour workday, and concentrate for extended
periods of time, but only when performing simple one-to-two
step tasks that are repetitive in nature. Doc. 14-1 at 23.
Based on this RFC finding, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
retained the ability to perform her past relevant work. Doc.
14-1 at 27. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Doc. 14-1 at 28.
individual is disabled under the Act if, inter alia,
she is unable “to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment” which has lasted or can be expected
to last for at least 12 months. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). The Commissioner uses the following sequential
five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is
disabled: (1) an individual who is working and engaging in
substantial gainful activity is not disabled; (2) an
individual who does not have a “severe
impairment” is not 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 her past work, a finding
of “not disabled” must be made; (5) if an
individual's impairment precludes her from performing her
past work, other factors including age, education, past work
experience, and residual functional capacity must be
considered to determine if any other work can be performed.
Wren v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 123, 125 (5th Cir. 1991)
(per curiam) (summarizing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(b)-(f), 416.920 (b-(f)).
the first four steps of the analysis, the burden of proof
lies with the claimant. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d
558, 564 (5th Cir. 1995). The analysis terminates if the
Commissioner determines at any point during the first four
steps that the claimant is disabled or is not disabled.
Id. If the claimant satisfies her burden under the
first four steps, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at
step five to show that there is other gainful employment
available in the national economy that the claimant can
perform. Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th
Cir. 1994). This burden may be satisfied either by reference