United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. LOVE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
December 28, 2015, Plaintiff initiated this civil action
pursuant to the Social Security Act, Section 205(g) for
judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of
Plaintiff's application for Social Security benefits. For
the reasons stated below, the Court AFFIRMS the ALJ's
9, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental
security income, alleging impairments that became disabling
on December 17, 2009. (Transcript (“Tr.”) at
95-96.) Plaintiff's claims were initially denied on
August 10, 2012. (Id.) Thereafter, Plaintiff
requested a hearing and the ALJ held a hearing on June 2,
2014. (Id. at 40.) The ALJ denied the claims on
September 24, 2014. (Id. at 17-35.) On October 26,
2015, the Appeals Council denied a request for review.
(Id. at 1.) Therefore, the ALJ's decision became
the Commissioner's decision, Sims v. Apfel, 530
U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000), and Plaintiff initiated this civil
action for judicial review.
II of the Act provides for federal disability insurance
benefits while Title XVI provides for supplemental security
income for the disabled. Judicial review of the denial of
disability benefits under section 205(g) of the Act, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), is limited to “determining
whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in
the record and whether the proper legal standards were used
in evaluating the evidence.” Bowling v.
Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 435 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting
Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir.
1990)); Muse v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 785, 789 (5th
Cir. 1991) (per curiam). A finding of no substantial evidence
is appropriate only where there is a conspicuous absence of
credible choices or no contrary medical evidence. Johnson
v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir. 1988) (citing
Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir.
1983)). Accordingly, the Court “may not reweigh the
evidence in the record, nor try the issues de novo, nor
substitute [the Court's] judgment for the
[Commissioner]'s, even if the evidence preponderates
against the [Commissioner]'s decision.”
Bowling, 36 F.3d at 435 (quoting Harrell v.
Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988)); see
Spellman v. Shalala, 1 F.3d 357, 360 (5th Cir. 1993);
Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 295 (5th Cir.
1992); Cook v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 391, 392 (5th Cir.
1985). Rather, conflicts in the evidence are for the
Commissioner to decide. Spellman, 1 F.3d 357, 360
(5th Cir. 1993) (citing Selders v. Sullivan, 914
F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990)); Anthony, 954 F.2d
289, 295 (5th Cir. 1992) (citing Patton v.
Schweiker, 697 F.2d 590, 592 (5th Cir. 1983)). A
decision on the ultimate issue of whether a claimant is
disabled, as defined in the Act, rests with the Commissioner.
Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 455-56 (5th Cir.
2000); SSR 96-5p, 61 Fed. Reg. 34471 (July 2, 1996).
evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance-that is, enough that a reasonable mind would
judge it sufficient to support the decision.” Pena
v. Astrue, 271 F. App'x 382, 383 (5th Cir. 2003)
(citing Falco v. Shalala, 27 F.3d 160, 162 (5th Cir.
1994)). Substantial evidence includes four factors: (1)
objective medical facts or clinical findings; (2) diagnoses
of examining physicians; (3) subjective evidence of pain and
disability; and (4) the plaintiff's age, education, and
work history. Fraga v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1296, 1302
n.4 (5th Cir. 1987). If supported by substantial evidence,
the decision of the Commissioner is conclusive and must be
affirmed. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971). However, the Court must do more than “rubber
stamp” the ALJ's decision; the Court must
“scrutinize the record and take into account whatever
fairly detracts from the substantiality of evidence
supporting the [Commissioner]'s findings.”
Cook, 750 F.2d 391, 393 (5th Cir. 1985). The Court
may remand for additional evidence if substantial evidence is
lacking or “upon a showing that there is new evidence
which is material and that there is good cause for the
failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a
prior proceeding.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Latham
v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 482, 483 (5th Cir. 1994).
claimant for disability has the burden of proving a
disability. Wren v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 123, 125 (5th
Cir. 1991). The Act defines “disability” as an
“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 can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(1)(A); 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A “physical or mental
impairment” is an anatomical, physiological, or
psychological abnormality which is demonstrable by acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
order to determine whether a claimant is disabled, the
Commissioner must utilize a five-step, sequential process.
Villa, 895 F.2d at 1022. A finding of
“disabled” or “not disabled” at any
step of the sequential process ends the inquiry.
Id.; see Bowling, 36 F.3d at 435 (citing
Harrel, 862 F.2d at 475). Under the five-step
sequential analysis, the Commissioner must determine at Step
One whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity. At Step Two, the Commissioner must
determine whether one or more of the claimant's
impairments are severe. At Step Three, the Commissioner must
determine whether the claimant has an impairment or
combination of impairments that meet or equal one of the
listings in Appendix I. Prior to moving to Step Four, the
Commissioner must determine the claimant's Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”), or the most that the
claimant can do given his impairments, both severe and
non-severe. Then, at Step Four, the Commissioner must
determine whether the claimant is capable of performing his
past relevant work. Finally, at Step Five, the Commissioner
must determine whether the claimant can perform other work
available in the local or national economy. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(b)-(f) and 404.1520(b)(1)(f). An
affirmative answer at Step One or a negative answer at Steps
Two, Four, or Five results in a finding of “not
disabled.” See Villa, 895 F.2d at 1022. An
affirmative answer at Step Three, or an affirmative answer at
Steps Four and Five, creates a presumption of disability.
Id. The burden of proof is on the claimant for the
first four steps, but shifts to the Commissioner at Step Five
if the claimant shows that he cannot perform his past
relevant work. Anderson v. Sullivan, 887 F.2d 630,
632-33 (5th Cir. 1989) (per curiam).
LAW JUDGE'S FINDINGS
made the following findings in his September 24, 2014
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 9, 2012, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: bipolar
disorder and borderline personality disorder (20 CFR
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,