United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA M. G. LYNN, CHIEF JUDGE.
Juan Beltran seeks judicial review of a final adverse
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons explained
below, the hearing decision is reversed and remanded.
Beltran alleges that he is disabled as a result of diabetes,
neuropathy in his hands and feet, high blood pressure, and
visual impairments. See Administrative Record [Dkt.
No. 13 (“Tr.”)] at 49-54, 209. After his
applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits
were denied initially and on reconsideration, Mr. Beltran
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). That hearing was held on October 17,
2014. See Id. at 43-65. At the time of the hearing,
Mr. Beltran was 47 years old. See Id. at 36. He has
a sixth grade education and past work experience as a
forklift operator, material handler, construction laborer,
wirer/electrician helper, and sheet rock installer. See
Id. at 36-37. Mr. Beltran has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 1, 2013. See Id. at
found that Mr. Beltran was not disabled and therefore not
entitled to disability or SSI benefits. See Id. at
37. Although the medical evidence established that Mr.
Beltran suffered from diabetes and neuropathy, the ALJ
concluded that the severity of those impairments did not meet
or equal any impairment listed in the social security
regulations. See Id. at 32-33. The ALJ further
determined that Mr. Beltran had the residual functional
capacity to perform the full range of light work but could
not return to his past relevant employment. See Id.
at 33, 36. Given his age, education, and exertional capacity
for light work, the ALJ determined that Mr. Beltran was not
disabled under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. See
Id. at 37.
Beltran appealed that decision to the Appeals Council. The
Beltran then filed this action in federal district court. In
multiple grounds, Mr. Beltran argues that the ALJ committed
reversible error by improperly rejecting his treating
physician's opinions, evaluating the severity of his
visual impairments, and assessing his residual functional
capacity - specifically, by failing to conduct the
function-by-function analysis required by SSR 96-8p - and
that the ALJ's findings that Mr. Beltran has the RFC to
perform the full range of light work and concerning his
ability to communicate in English are not supported by
Court determines that the hearing decision is reversed and
this case is remanded to the Commissioner of Social Security
for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
review in social security cases is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards to evaluate
the evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Copeland v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 920, 923 (5th Cir.
2014); Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir.
1995). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
accord Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923. The Commissioner,
rather than the courts, must resolve conflicts in the
evidence, including weighing conflicting testimony and
determining witnesses' credibility, and the Court does
not try the issues de novo. See Martinez v.
Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 174 (5th Cir. 1995); Greenspan
v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 237 (5th Cir. 1994). This Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for
the Commissioner's but must scrutinize the entire record
to ascertain whether substantial evidence supports the
hearing decision. See Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923;
Hollis v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1383 (5th Cir.
1988). The Court “may affirm only on the grounds that
the Commissioner stated for [the] decision.”
Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923.
order to qualify for disability insurance benefits or
[supplemental security income], a claimant must suffer from a
disability.” Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)). A disabled worker is entitled to monthly
social security benefits if certain conditions are met.
See 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). The Act defines
“disability” as the inability to engage in
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or last for a continued period of
12 months. See Id. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also
Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923; Cook v. Heckler, 750
F.2d 391, 393 (5th Cir. 1985).
evaluating a disability claim, the Commissioner conducts 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).
claimant bears the initial burden of establishing a
disability through the first four steps of the analysis; on
the fifth, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
there is other substantial work in the national economy that
the claimant can perform. See Copeland, 771 F.3d at
923; Audler, 501 F.3d at 448. A finding that the
claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point in the
five-step review is conclusive and terminates the analysis.
See Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923; Lovelace v.
Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 58 (5th Cir. 1987).
reviewing the propriety of a decision that a claimant is not
disabled, the Court's function is to ascertain whether
the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's final decision. The Court
weighs four elements to determine whether there is
substantial evidence of disability: (1) objective medical
facts; (2) diagnoses and opinions of treating and examining
physicians; (3) subjective ...