United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Wichita Falls Division
LONNIE R. ROLLINS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
RAY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lonnie R. Rollins (“Rollins”) filed this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the
denial by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) of his
applications for disability insurance benefits under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“SSA”).
ECF No. 1. After considering the pleadings, briefs, and the
administrative record, the Court REVERSES the
Commissioner's decision and REMANDS this action for
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
filed his applications for disability benefits on July 30,
2014. Tr. 15. He alleged a disability onset date of July 25,
2014. Id. Rollins alleged limiting conditions of
hypertension, COPD, hepatitis C, depression, chest pain,
stroke, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and insomnia. Tr. 280. The
Commissioner initially denied him benefits on November 24,
2014. Tr. 129-30. The Commissioner denied him benefits upon
reconsideration on April 21, 2015. Tr. 145-46. Rollins
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), and a hearing was held before ALJ
Angelita Hamilton on April 27, 2016. Tr. 15. Rollins appeared
in Wichita Falls, Texas, and the ALJ presided over the
hearing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Id. A
non-attorney representative, Jeffrey L. Owen, represented
Rollins at the hearing. Id. Vocational Expert
(“VE”) David D. Couch testified at the hearing.
Id. The ALJ issued her decision on May 26, 2016,
finding that Rollins was not entitled to disability benefits.
decision, the ALJ employed the statutory five-step analysis.
At step one, she found that Rollins had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 25, 2014, the amended
alleged disability onset date. Tr. 17, Finding 2. At step
two, the ALJ found that Rollins had the severe impairments of
COPD, diabetes, affective disorder, and substance addiction
disorder. Tr. 17, Finding 3. At step three, the ALJ found
that Rollins's impairments did not meet or medically
equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. § 404(P)(1). Tr. 24, Finding 4. The ALJ therefore
determined that Rollins had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that
he should be limited to occasional exposure to environmental
irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts, and gases; and his
work must be limited to simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks. Tr. 25, Finding 5.
four, the ALJ found that Rollins was unable to perform any
past relevant work. Tr. 29, Finding 6. At step five, the ALJ
found that there existed a significant number of jobs in the
national economy that Rollins could perform. Tr. 29, Finding
10. In particular, the ALJ noted the jobs of mail sorter,
collator operator, and hand packer, based on the testimony of
the VE. Tr. 30. The ALJ found that Rollins was not under a
disability at any time from July 25, 2014, through the date
of her decision on May 26, 2016. Tr. 30-31, Finding 11.
Appeals Council denied Rollins's request for review on
July 24, 2017. Tr. 1-6. Therefore the ALJ's decision
became the Commissioner's final decision and is properly
before the Court for review. See Higginbotham v.
Barnhart, 405 F.3d 332, 336 (5th Cir. 2005)
(“[T]he Commissioner's final decision includes the
Appeals Council's denial of a request for
was born on December 2, 1963, and he was fifty years old at
the time of the hearing. Tr. 42. The highest grade of
schooling he completed was the seventh grade. Tr. 78. The VE
testified that Rollins had past work as a derrick worker. Tr.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
II, 42 U.S.C. § 404 et seq. of the SSA controls
the disability insurance program as well as numerous
regulatory provisions concerning disability insurance.
See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. The SSA defines a disability
as an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment . . . 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); McQueen v.
Apfel, 168 F.3d 152, 154 (5th Cir. 1999).
determine whether a claimant is disabled and thus entitled to
disability benefits, the Commissioner employs a five-step
sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). For step one, the claimant must not be
presently working at any substantial gainful activity to gain
disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
“Substantial gainful activity” means work
activity involving the use of significant physical or mental
abilities for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572;
Masterson v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 271 n.2 (5th
Cir. 2002). For step two, the claimant must have an
impairment or combination of impairments that is severe. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c); see also Stone v.
Heckler, 752 F.2d 1099, 1100-03 (5th Cir. 1985). For
step three, disability exists if the impairment or
combination of impairments meets or equals an impairment
listed in the Listing of Impairments (“Listing”)
found in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(d). Before proceeding to step four, the
Commissioner must assess the claimant's RFC-“the
most the claimant can still do despite his physical and
mental limitations.” Perez v. Barnhart, 415
F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §
416.945(a)(1). For step four, if the claimant's medical
status alone does not constitute a disability, the impairment
must prevent the claimant from returning to his past relevant
work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). For step five, the
impairment must prevent the claimant from doing any work,
considering the claimant's RFC, age, education, and past
work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f); Crowley v.
Apfel, 197 F.3d 194, 197-98 (5th Cir. 1999). “The
claimant bears the burden of showing that [he] is disabled
through the first four steps of the analysis; on the fifth,
the Commissioner must show that there is other substantial
work in the national economy that the claimant can
perform.” Audler v. Astrue, 501 F.3d 446, 448
(5th Cir. 2007). “If the Commissioner meets this
burden, the claimant must then prove he in fact cannot
perform the alternate work.” Carey v. Apfel,
230 F.3d 131, 135 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Crowley,
197 F.3d at 198.)
Court's decision is limited to a determination of whether
the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and
whether substantial evidence in the record as a whole
supports the decision. Audler, 501 F.3d at 447;
Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 564 (5th Cir. 1995).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
responsible mind might accept to support a conclusion. It is
more than a mere scintilla and less than a preponderance. A
finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate only if no
credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the
decision.” Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704
(5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Harris v. Apfel, 209 F.3d
413, 417 (5th Cir. 2000)). The Court may neither reweigh the
evidence in the record nor substitute its judgment for the
Commissioner's, but it will carefully scrutinize the
record to determine if evidence is present. Hollis v.
Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1383 (5th Cir. 1988);
Harris, 209 F.3d at 417. “Conflicts in the
evidence are for the [Commissioner] and not the courts to
resolve.” Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452
(5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Brown v. Apfel, 192 F.3d
492, 496 (5th Cir. 1999)).