United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Isabel Arana seeks judicial review of a final adverse
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
reasons explained below, the hearing decision is affirmed.
Arana alleges that he is disabled as a result of a spine and
shoulder injury. After his application for disability
insurance benefits was denied initially and on
reconsideration, Mr. Arana requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). That hearing
was held on May 27, 2015. See Dkt. No. 12
(Administrative Record [“Tr.”]) at 48-84. At the
time of the hearing, Mr. Arana was 57 years old. He is a high
school graduate and has past work experience as a general
construction worker. Mr. Arana has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since June 25, 2012.
found that Mr. Arana was not disabled and therefore not
entitled to disability benefits. See Tr. at 34-42
(ALJ's Decision). Although the medical evidence
established that Mr. Arana suffered from thoracic and lumbar
degenerative disc disease, history of right rib fracture,
ventral hernia status post hernia repair, and obesity, the
ALJ concluded that the severity of those impairments did not
meet or equal any impairment listed in the social security
regulations. The ALJ further determined that Mr. Arana had
the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range
of medium work but could not return his past relevant
employment. Relying on a vocational expert's testimony,
the ALJ found that Mr. Arana was capable of working as a
dining room attendant, hand packager, and cleaner, industrial
- jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. Given his age, education, and exertional capacity
for medium work, the ALJ determined that Mr. Arana was not
disabled under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines.
Arana appealed that decision to the Appeals Council. The
single ground for relief, Mr. Arana contends that the
assessment of his residual functional capacity is not
supported by substantial evidence and results from reversible
Court determines that the hearing decision is affirmed in all
review in social security cases is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards to evaluate
the evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Copeland v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 920, 923 (5th Cir.
2014); Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir.
1995). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
accord Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923. The Commissioner,
rather than the courts, must resolve conflicts in the
evidence, including weighing conflicting testimony and
determining witnesses' credibility, and the Court does
not try the issues de novo. See Martinez v.
Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 174 (5th Cir. 1995); Greenspan
v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 237 (5th Cir. 1994). This Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for
the Commissioner's but must scrutinize the entire record
to ascertain whether substantial evidence supports the
hearing decision. See Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923;
Hollis v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1383 (5th Cir.
1988). The Court “may affirm only on the grounds that
the Commissioner stated for [the] decision.”
Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923.
order to qualify for disability insurance benefits, a
claimant must suffer from a disability.” Id.
(citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)). A disabled worker is
entitled to monthly social security benefits if certain
conditions are met. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). The
Act defines “disability” as the inability to
engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can
be expected to result in death or last for a continued period
of 12 months. See Id. § 423(d)(1)(A); see
also Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923; Cook v.
Heckler, 750 F.2d 391, 393 (5th Cir. 1985).
evaluating a disability claim, the Commissioner conducts a
five-step sequential analysis to determine whether (1) the
claimant is presently working; (2) the claimant has a severe
impairment; (3) the impairment meets or equals an impairment
listed in appendix 1 of the social security regulations; (4)
the impairment prevents the claimant from doing past relevant
work; and (5) the impairment prevents the claimant from doing
any other substantial gainful activity.” Audler v.
Astrue, 501 F.3d 446, 447-48 (5th Cir. 2007).
claimant bears the initial burden of establishing a
disability through the first four steps of the analysis; on
the fifth, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
there is other substantial work in the national economy that
the claimant can perform. See Copeland, 771 F.3d at
923; Audler, 501 F.3d at 448. A finding that the
claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point in the
five-step review is ...