United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Abilene Division
MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION
SCOTT FROST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Debra Louise Davidson
seeks judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, who denied her application for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income under
Titles II and 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. (Doc. 12). After considering the pleadings,
briefs, and administrative record, the undersigned ORDERS the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED and Davidson's
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
filed applications for DIB and SSI on June 24, 2013. Those
applications were denied initially on September 25, 2013 and
after reconsideration on January 3, 2014. Davidson requested
a hearing, which was held before an Administrative Law Judge
on September 24, 2014. The ALJ issued a decision on January
16, 2015 finding Davidson not disabled.
the ALJ found during step one that Davidson had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since September 1, 2011.
(Doc. 11-3, 12). At step two, the ALJ determined Davidson had
the severe impairments of degenerative changes of the lumbar
spine with spondylosis, bipolar disorder, major depressive
disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and alcohol abuse
in remission. (Doc. 11-3, 13). In the third step, the ALJ
found those severe impairments did not meet and were not
equivalent to the standards of any listed mpairments. (Doc.
11-3, 13). The step three analysis continued, with the ALJ
finding Davidson retained the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work with the limitations that she "is
able to understand, remember, and carryout simple tasks,
attend and concentrate for extended periods, interact
appropriately with coworkers and peers, ... respond
appropriately to changes in a routine work setting[, but]
cannot have frequent contact with the public." (Doc.
11-3, 15). 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
Davidson could perform and found her not disabled. (Doc.
applied to the Appeals Council, which denied review on May
17, 2016. Therefore, the ALJ's decision is the
Commissioner's final decision and propely before the
court for review. Higginbotham v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d
332, 336 (5th Cir. 2005) ("[T] tie 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,
Davidson was 49 years old and married at the time of the
administrative hearing. She has experience working as a
nurse's aide and mental health aide, as well as in
telemarketing. 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.3c 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, ...