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Panos v. Berryhill

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

February 21, 2018

ELIZABETH PANOS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          ANNE T. BERTON 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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). For the reasons set forth below, the Court orders that the Commissioner's decision be REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I.PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of December 13, 2013. (R. 120-121). Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 63, 69-77). Plaintiff then filed a request for a hearing, which was held on April 5, 2016. (R. 16-24, 78). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision on May 24, 2016, denying benefits. (R. 16-24). Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied review. (R. 1-4). Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II.ISSUE

         Plaintiff presents the following issues for review:

1. Whether the ALJ erred by failing to analyze the opinion evidence in accordance with the regulations, Agency policy, and Fifth Circuit precedent.
2. Whether, despite acknowledging Plaintiff's “excellent” employment history, the ALJ failed to adequately consider this history in making a credibility assessment.

(ECF. No. 11, p. 4).

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in giving little weight to the January 5, 2015 opinion of Dr. Michael J. Mrochek, M.D. (Id. at 4-15). Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Dr. Mrochek's opinion is entitled to great weight as: (1) he was Plaintiff's treating physician; (2) he was a specialist who opined based on an actual examination; (3) he was the only physician of record to opine after conducting an actual examination; and (4) Dr. Mrochek's opinions were not “internally inconsistent” and consistent with the record generally. (Id. at 8-15). Plaintiff further argues that the ALJ impermissibly relied on his lay analysis of raw medical data by rejecting the opinion of Dr. Mrochek and not further developing the record. (Id.). Plaintiff lastly argues that the ALJ failed to consider Plaintiff's strong work history in determining her credibility. (Id. at 17-21).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. 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) (citations omitted); Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). “Substantial evidence ‘is more than a mere scintilla, and less than a preponderance.'” Masterson, 309 F.3d at 272 (citation omitted). The Commissioner's findings will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence. Id. (citation omitted). A finding of no substantial evidence will be made only where ...


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