United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
RAFAELA Z. SARMIENTO, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
SCHYDLOWER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Rafaela Z. Sarmiento appeals the denial of her Social
Security disability benefits claim under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The parties consent to my determination under 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) and Appendix C to the Local Court Rules
for the Western District of Texas. I AFFIRM
the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.
Facts and Proceedings
applied for disability insurance benefits in February 2013
alleging disability beginning on July 23, 2011. After the
Commissioner denied her initial application and request for
reconsideration, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
hearing in November 2014. The ALJ heard testimony from Sarmiento,
who was represented by counsel, and from a vocational expert.
In an opinion dated March 27, 2015, the ALJ determined that
Sarmiento was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. The Appeals Council denied her request for
review, making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of
appeal, Sarmiento argues that the ALJ erred in not finding
Sarmiento's affective mood disorder severe enough to meet
or equal one of the impairments listed in the appendix to the
regulations. She also argues that the ALJ erred in
determining her residual functional capacity (what she can
still do workwise) because the ALJ failed to accommodate her
alleged standing and walking limitations.
review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to two
inquiries: 1) whether the decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole; and 2) whether
the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards.
Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th
Cir. 2005); Masterson v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 272
(5th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence Ais more
than a mere scintilla, and less than a preponderance.@
Masterson, 309 F.3d at 272. The Commissioner's
findings will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence.
evaluating a disability claim, the Commissioner follows a
five-step sequential process to determine whether: (1) the
claimant is presently working; (2) the claimant has a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment; (3) the
claimant's impairment meets or equals an impairment
listed in the appendix to the regulations; (4) the impairment
prevents the claimant from doing past work; and (5) the
claimant can perform other work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704-05
(5th Cir. 2001).
utilize four elements of proof to determine whether there is
substantial evidence of disability: (1) objective medical
facts; (2) diagnoses and opinions of treating and examining
physicians; (3) the claimant's subjective evidence of
pain and disability; and (4) the claimant's age,
education, and work history. Perez, 415 F.3d at 462.
A court cannot, however, reweigh the evidence or try the
issues de novo. Cook v. Heckler, 750 F.2d
391, 392 (5th Cir. 1985). The Commissioner, not
the courts, must resolve conflicts in the evidence. See
Patton v. Schweiker, 697 F.2d 590, 592 (5th
The ALJ's Findings
steps one and two, the ALJ determined that Sarmiento had not
worked since October 2009 and had severe impairments of diabetes
mellitus, hypertension, degenerative disc disease, obesity,
and affective mood disorder. At step three, she determined
none of these impairments met or equaled an impairment listed
in the appendix to the regulations.
next step, the ALJ found that Sarmiento had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform “medium work,
” with some limits on the complexity of the work to be
performed.The ALJ relied on vocational expert
testimony to determine that Sarmiento could perform her past
work as an assembly solderer, which was light and unskilled
work. The ALJ concluded that Sarmiento was not
disabled and not entitled to disability insurance
argues that the ALJ erred in failing to find that
Sarmiento's affective mood disorder was severe enough to
meet or equal one of the impairments listed in the appendix
to the regulations. If the ALJ had so found, Sarmiento would
be deemed “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d). At issue is whether Sarmiento's
mood disorder results in at least two of the following:
1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Marked difficulties in maintain concentration,
persistence, or pace; or
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended
duration. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App.1, ...