United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
T. BERTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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
appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
his application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). 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
October 22, 2013, and November 14, 2013, respectively,
Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a
disability onset date of July 1, 2010. (R. 205-213). His
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
(R. 69-82, 85-98). Plaintiff then filed a request for a
hearing, which was held on March 7, 2016. (R. 40-68,
125-126). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
issued a decision on May 19, 2016, denying benefits. (R.
24-32). Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied review. (R.
1-4). Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner.
presents the following issue for review: whether the
ALJ's RFC finding is supported by substantial evidence.
(ECF. No. 16, p. 3). Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by:
(1) “playing doctor” by assigning little weight
to all medical opinions; and (2) rejecting the opinion of
Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Cesar Calianga,
without good cause. (Id. at 4-8). Moreover, because
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) did not include the extent of his
limitations, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ's
hypothetical to the Vocational Expert (“VE”) was
improper. (Id. at 7).
Standard of Review
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 there is a conspicuous absence of credible
choices or no contrary medical evidence. Abshire v.
Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988) (per curiam)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
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 (citation omitted). Conflicts in the evidence are for the
Commissioner and not the courts to resolve. Id.
(citation omitted); Spellman v. Shalala, 1 F.3d 357,
360 (5th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted).
evaluates disability claims according to a sequential
five-step process: (1) whether the claimant is currently
engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the
claimant has a severe medically determinable physical or
mental impairment; (3) whether the claimant's
impairment(s) meet or equal the severity of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4)
whether the impairment prevents the claimant from performing
past relevant work; and (5) whether the impairment prevents
the claimant from doing any other work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Once the claimant satisfies her burden under the
first four steps, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at
step five to show that there is other gainful employment
available in the national economy that the claimant is
capable of performing. Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d
232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994). This burden may be satisfied either
by reference to the Medical Vocational Guidelines of the
regulations, by VE testimony, or by other similar evidence.
Fraga v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1296, 1304 (5th Cir. 1987).
Once the Commissioner makes the requisite showing at step
five, the burden shifts back to the Plaintiff to rebut the
finding that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers
that the Plaintiff could perform. Perez v. Barnhart,
415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005).
present case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of hypertension and diabetes mellitus. (R.
26-27). Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the listed impairments. (R. 27-28). After
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a full range of medium
work. (R. 28-31). The ALJ then determined that
Plaintiff was able to perform his past relevant work. (R.