United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
MELISSA A. HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
F. CASTANEDA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying
her claims for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Both parties consented
to trial on the merits before a United States Magistrate
Judge, and the case was transferred to this Court for trial
and entry of judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Appendix C to the Local Court Rules for this district. For
the reasons set forth below, this Court orders that the
Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.
protectively filed an application DIB on January 17, 2014,
and an application for SSI on January 24, 2014. (R:13). In
both applications, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning on
December 13, 2012. (Id.). These claims were denied
on June 3, 2014, and upon reconsideration on August 25, 2014.
(Id.). On June 28, 2016, a video hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge James Linehan
(“ALJ”). (Id. at 33). An unfavorable
decision was issued on August 5, 2016, and her request for
review was denied on June 29, 2017. (Id. at 1-10).
presented the following issue for review:
1. The ALJ failed to elicit a reasonable explanation for the
inconsistency between Vocational Expert's
(“VE”) testimony and the information contained in
the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”)
pursuant to Social Security Ruling 00-4p.
Standard of Review
Court's review is limited to a determination of whether
the Commissioner's final decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in evaluating
the evidence. See Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172,
173 (5th Cir. 1995); Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d
232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S.
1120 (1995). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla,
but can be less than a preponderance, and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552,
555 (5th Cir. 1995). 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) (citing Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d
162, 164 (5th Cir. 1983)). In reviewing the substantiality of
the evidence, a court must consider the record as a whole and
“must take into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from its weight.” Singletary v.
Bowen, 798 F.2d 818, 823 (5th Cir. 1986).
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence, they are conclusive and must be affirmed.
Martinez, 64 F.3d at 173. In applying the
substantial evidence standard, a court must carefully examine
the entire record, but may not reweigh the evidence or try
the issues de novo. Haywood v. Sullivan,
888 F.2d 1463, 1466 (5th Cir. 1989). It may not substitute
its own judgment “even if the evidence preponderates
against the [Commissioner's] decision, ” because
substantial evidence is less than a preponderance.
Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988).
Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner, and not
the courts, to resolve. Spellman v. Shalala, 1 F.3d
357, 360 (5th Cir. 1993).
ALJ's Hearing Decision
first step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since December 13, 2012. (R:15).
At the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: cirrhosis secondary to alcohol
abuse, depression, anxiety, and lumbar degenerative disc
disease. (Id. at 16). At the third step, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff did not have an ...