United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
Stephen Wm Smith, United States Magistrate Judge.
Ajaykumar Maganbhaui Patel filed this case under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(g) for review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying his application for
social security disability benefits. Dkt. 14. Both parties
consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction. Dkt. 12. Patel
and the Commissioner moved for summary judgment. Dkt. Nos.
13, 15. After reviewing the record and the law, Patel's
motion is granted, the Commissioner's motion is denied,
and the case remanded for further administrative proceedings.
filed claims for disability insurance benefits on June 6,
2013, alleging disability beginning April 10, 2013. Patel is
over 50 years old, with a high school education, and last
worked as an assistant manager in retail sales. His claim was
denied on initial review, so he requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge, which was held on September 10,
denied the claim on November 25, 2014. Specifically, the ALJ
found at step 2 of the required sequential analysis (20
C.F.R. § 404.1520) that Patel had no severe mental
impairments, but did have other medically determinable
impairments that were severe --- status post liver
transplant, diabetes mellitus with kidney complications and
neurological complications, mild lumbar scoliosis and
osteophytes and chronic kidney disease. At step 3 the ALJ
found that none of these impairments met or medically equaled
any of the Agency's listed impairments. Dkt. 7-3.
rated Patel's residual functional capacity (RFC) as
“light work”, with the following exertional
limitations: cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
cannot work around hazards such as unprotected heights, open
waters or fires, dangerous or moving machinery; can
occasionally stoop, squat, kneel, crawl, bend, and crouch.
Based on this RFC the ALJ concluded that Patel could perform
his past relevant work (step 4), and denied disability status
on that basis. The ALJ made no alternate step 5 findings nor
did the vocational expert testify to other work Patel could
perform. Dkt. 7-3, at 24.
Appeals Council denied Patel's request for review. Patel
then filed this action seeking judicial review pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
405(g) of the Social Security Act governs the standard of
review in disability cases. Waters v. Barnhart, 276
F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 2002). The Commissioner's
decision to deny social security benefits is reviewed by the
federal courts to determine whether (1) the Commissioner
applied the proper legal standard, and (2) the
Commissioner's factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971). To be substantial, evidence must be
relevant and sufficient for a reasonable mind to accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. “Judicial review is
to be deferential without being so obsequious as to be
meaningless.” Taylor v. Bowen, 782 F.2d 1294,
1298 (5th Cir. 1986).
claimant is disabled only if he is “incapable of
engaging in any substantial gainful activity.”
Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 293 (5th Cir.
1992). The commissioner applies a five-step sequential
analysis to decide disability status. The claimant bears the
burden of proof on the first four steps to establish that a
disability exists. If successful, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner, in step five, to show that the claimant can
perform other work. McQueen v. Apfel, 168 F.3d 152,
152 (5th Cir. 1999). Once the Commissioner shows that other
jobs are available, the burden shifts back to the claimant to
show he is unable to perform the alternative work.
Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 618 (5th Cir.
Commissioner's decision must stand or fall with the
reasons stated in the ALJ's final decision. Newton v.
Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 455 (5th Cir. 2000).
Post hoc rationalizations for an agency decision are not to
be considered by a reviewing court. SEC v. Chenery,
332 U.S. 194, 196 (1947).
claims that the ALJ erred by: (1) finding that Patel's
mental impairments were not severe and resulted in no
work-related limitations; (b) failing to assign the
appropriate weight to the treating physician's opinions
regarding his physical impairment limitations; and (3)
improperly evaluating Patel's credibility. As explained
below, the Court agrees that remand is necessary based on the
first two grounds, and finds it unnecessary to consider the