United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Amarillo Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION TO REVERSE
THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
ANN RENO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
KRISSIE MAE TREVINO brings this cause of action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of
defendant NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (Commissioner), denying plaintiff's applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental
Security Income (SSI). Both parties have filed briefs in this
cause. For the reasons hereinafter expressed, the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge recommends the
Commissioner's decision finding plaintiff not disabled
and not entitled to benefits be REVERSED and the case be
remanded for further administrative proceedings.
March 6, 2013, plaintiff Krissie Mae Trevino protectively
filed her applications for social security disability
benefits initially raising complaints of deteriorating disc
and arthritis in back, degenerative disc disease and
rheumatoid arthritis. (Administrative Transcript (Tr.) 59;
The Commissioner denied benefits initially on April 19, 2013
and upon reconsideration on June 27, 2013. (Tr. 86-91;
96-99). Upon plaintiff's request, a video hearing was
held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on August 5,
2015. (Tr. 40-55). At the hearing, through her
representative, plaintiff amended her disability onset date
to reflect the date May 7, 2013 instead of May 1, 2010. (Tr.
43). On the date of the hearing, plaintiff was 32 years old
and had received her General Equivalency Diploma (GED). (Tr.
43; 52). Plaintiff had past relevant work as: a caregiver,
performed at the medium, semiskilled level; and as a property
manager, performed at the light, skilled level. (Tr. 31; 52).
On September 10, 2015, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable
decision, finding plaintiff not disabled and not entitled to
benefits at any time relevant to the decision. (Tr. 20-33).
Following plaintiff's unsuccessful administrative appeal
of the ALJ's decision, plaintiff sought federal judicial
reaching her decision, the ALJ followed the five-step
sequential process in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) and
416.920(a). The claimant has the initial burden of
establishing a disability in the first four steps in the
analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5,
107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294 n.5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). At Step One,
the ALJ determined plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date. (Tr. 25). At
Step Two, the ALJ found plaintiff's chronic back pain
secondary to degenerative disc disease of the lumbar,
cervical, and thoracic spinal regions with lumbar and
cervical radiculopathy/radiculitis were severe impairments
but found her migraine headaches to be non-severe. (Tr. 25;
27). At Step Three, the ALJ concluded plaintiff did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 28).
an extensive review of the medical record, the ALJ determined
plaintiff was not entirely credible regarding her impairments
and their impact on her ability to work. (Tr. 31). In so
finding, the ALJ next evaluated plaintiff's RFC, reaching
the conclusion plaintiff was able “[t]o perform light
work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except
that requiring more than occasionally stopping (sic),
crouching and kneeling.” (Tr. 28). The ALJ's
decision references light work and appears to indicate
plaintiff was capable of performing more than
occasional stooping, crouching and kneeling; however, a
review of the hypothetical posed to the Vocational Expert
(VE) at the administrative hearing clarifies she referenced a
hypothetical claimant possessing the strength to
“[p]erform a wide range of light work with only
occasional stooping, kneeling, and crouching.” (Tr.
next found, at Step Four, that plaintiff could return to her
past relevant work as a Property Manager, a job the ALJ
classified as light, skilled and not requiring the
performance of work-related activities precluded by
plaintiff's RFC. (Tr. 31). Alternatively, at Step Five,
based on the RFC determination and VE testimony, the ALJ
found plaintiff was capable of performing other jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy including
Cashier II, Arcade Attendant, and Parking Lot Attendant. (Tr.
32-33). The ALJ found plaintiff was not under a disability at
any time between May 7, 2013, the amended alleged onset date,
and September 10, 2015, the date of the ALJ decision. (Tr.
have adopted what amounts to a “harmless error”
standard of review regarding matters of administrative
procedure in Social Security cases. Courts will order remand
in cases with procedural error if the substantial rights of a
party have been affected ... but “procedural
improprieties ... will ... constitute a basis for remand only
if such improprieties would cast into doubt the existence of
substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision."
Morris v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 333, 335 (5th Cir.1988).
in this case made the determination plaintiff is not disabled
at Step Five of the five-step sequential analysis.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). Therefore, this
Court is limited to reviewing only whether there was
substantial evidence in the record as a whole supporting a
finding that plaintiff retained the ability to perform work
that exists in significant numbers in the national economy,
and whether the proper legal standards were applied in
reaching this decision.
extent, plaintiff raises only claims that the ALJ failed to
Weigh the medical evidence of record and determine
plaintiff's RFC; and
Evaluate plaintiff's credibility. (ECF 10 at 2).
first alleges the ALJ failed to give proper weight to the
opinions of treating physician, Dr. Thomas Darter and
treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjoy Sundaresan. Plaintiff
included in her brief a recitation of her limited contact
with treating pain management specialist, Dr. Miles Day, as
does the Court; however, she does not argue Dr. Day's
opinion was given insufficient weight or is relevant to the
issues addressed herein.
Treating Physician - Dr. ...