United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
F. CASTANEDA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II 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
protectively filed an application for DIB on November 25,
2013, for disability beginning on November 22, 2013. (R:
161-65, 187; ECF. 16:1). This claim was initially denied on
February 6, 2014, and upon reconsideration on May 21, 2014.
(R: 81-84, 89-91). On November 17, 2015, a hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Katherine
Brown, and an unfavorable decision against Plaintiff was
issued on March 15, 2016. (R: 29, 40- 62). Plaintiff's
request for review was denied on August 16, 2017. (R: 1-3).
presents the following issue for review:
1. Whether the ALJ erred in her evaluation of the treating
(ECF. 16: 2-8).
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). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla, but 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) (quoting Parsons v.
Heckler, 739 F.2d 1334, 1339) (8th Cir. 1984)).
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 November 22, 2013. (R:
22). At the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, obesity, and
lumbar spine degenerative disc disease. (R: 22). At the third
step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling
one of the listed impairments. (R: 26). Before the fourth
step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of medium work.
(R: 26). At the fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is
capable of performing his past relevant work as a
garbage-collector driver. ...