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Rodriguez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

November 9, 2017

IVONE RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT F. CASTANEDA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is a civil action seeking judicial review of an administrative decision. Jurisdiction is predicated upon 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both parties having consented to trial on the merits before a United States Magistrate Judge, the case was transferred to this Court for trial and entry of judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and Rule CV-72 and Appendix C to the Local Court Rules for the Western District of Texas.

         Plaintiff appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, this Court orders that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed her applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2013. (R:208-225, 256, 269).[1] Her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (R:75, 92, 109, 127). Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing, which was conducted on September 22, 2015. (R:32-74). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision on December 11, 2015, denying benefits. (R:12-25). The Appeals Council denied review. (R:1-6).

         ISSUES

         Plaintiff presents the following issues for review:

1. Whether the ALJ's step five determination-that there are other jobs that exist in substantial numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform-is supported by substantial evidence.
2. Whether the ALJ failed to properly weigh the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician.
3. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to perform a detailed analysis of the treating physician's opinion under the criteria set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2).[2]

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to fully address Plaintiff's mental impairment limitations. (Doc.17:4). In this connection, she urges that the ALJ improperly rejected the mental limitations, which are made evident by multiple global assessment of functioning (“GAF”) scores. (Doc.17:6). Hence, she concludes, the ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) finding does not contain all of Plaintiff's limitations from her impairments, and his disability decision is not supported by substantial evidence. (Doc.17:8). She also argues that the ALJ failed to give the opinion of Dr. Vanderpool, Plaintiff's treating physician, the proper weight required by law. (Doc.17:8-14). She further contends that the ALJ committed reversible error by not applying the criteria set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2) in evaluating Dr. Vanderpool's medical opinions. (Doc.17:9, 10). Consequently, Plaintiff seeks a reversal and remand for an award of benefits or for further administrative proceedings. (Doc.17:14). Defendant contends that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's findings and conclusions, that the proper legal standards were utilized, and that the Commissioner's final administrative decision should be affirmed because no error was committed. (Doc.18).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         This Court's review is limited to a determination of whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, and whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in evaluating the evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Masterson v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 272 (5th Cir. 2002); Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173 (5th Cir. 1995). Substantial evidence “is 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. Id. A finding of no substantial evidence will be made only where there is a conspicuous absence of credible choices or no contrary medical evidence. Abshire v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988).

         In applying the substantial evidence standard, the court may not reweigh the evidence, try the issues de novo, or substitute its own judgment for the Commissioner's, even if it believes the evidence weighs against the Commissioner's decision. Masterson, 309 F.3d at 272. Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner ...


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