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Phillips v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 27, 2018

NEWMAN PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          REBECCA RUTHERFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Newman Phillips brings this action for judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying his claim for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 405(g). For the following reasons, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his initial claim on June 24, 2013 alleging that he was disabled due to a variety of ailments, including, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, depression, arthritis, and stomach pains. Tr. 58 [ECF No. 14-4]. After Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a hearing was held on April 9, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, before Administrative Law Judge Ann H. Pate (the “ALJ”). Tr. 32 [ECF No. 14-3]. Plaintiff was born on February 16, 1980 and was 35 years old at the time of the April 9, 2015 hearing. Tr. 32, 58. Plaintiff attended high school through the tenth grade. Tr. 36 [ECF No. 14-3]. On July 28, 2015, the ALJ issued her decision finding that Plaintiff has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from June 24, 2013, the date Plaintiff's application was filed, through the date of her decision. Tr. 24 [ECF No. 14-3]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: spine disorder, diabetes mellitus, and affective disorder. Tr. 17 [ECF No. 14-3]. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 18 [ECF No. 14-3].

         During the hearing, the ALJ sought the advice of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) as to whether jobs exist in the national economy for an individual with Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”), because Plaintiff's ability to perform all or substantially all of the requirements of light work has been impeded by additional limitations. Tr. 24 [ECF No. 14-3]. The VE testified that an individual with Plaintiff's characteristics could perform the tasks of the following light, unskilled occupations: (1) laundry inspector; (2) belt inspector; and (3) food inspector. Tr. 24. Given this testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was able to make a successful adjustment to work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Tr. 24. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, and on December 16, 2016, the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision. Tr. 1 [ECF No. 14-3]. Plaintiff filed this pro se action in the federal district court on January 3, 2017. Compl. [ECF No. 1].

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A claimant must prove that he is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act to be entitled to social security benefits. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 563-64 (5th Cir. 1995); Abshire v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988). The definition of disability under the Act is “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically-determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 292 (5th Cir. 1992).

         The Commissioner utilizes a sequential five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Those steps are that:

(1) an individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found disabled regardless of medical findings;
(2) an individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found to be disabled;
(3) an individual who meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of the regulations will be considered disabled without consideration of vocational factors;
(4) if an individual is capable of performing the work the individual has done in the past, a finding of “not disabled” will be made; and
(5) if an individual's impairment precludes the individual from performing the work the individual has done in the past, other factors including age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity must be considered to determine if other work can be performed.

Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(f)). The burden of proof lies with the claimant to prove disability under the first four steps of the five-step inquiry. Leggett, 67 F.3d at 564. The burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five of the inquiry to prove that other work, aside from the claimant's past work, can be performed by the claimant. Bowling v. ...


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