United States District Court, N.D. Texas
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
SCOTT FROST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Horace Walker, Jr.
seeks judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, who denied his application for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.
The Senior United States District Judge reassigned the case
to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The
parties have not consented to proceed before a United States
Magistrate Judge. After considering the pleadings, briefs,
and administrative record, this Court recommends the decision
of the Commissioner be affirmed and this case dismissed.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
filed an application for DIB on July 21, 2014, alleging
impairments that were disabling as of August 5, 2013. That
application was denied initially and again on
reconsideration. Walker requested a hearing, which was held
before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on May 23, 2016. The
ALJ issued a decision on July 19, 2016 finding Walker not
the ALJ found during step one that Walker had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date.
(Doc. 11-1, 21). At step two, the ALJ found that Walker had
the severe impairments of a left arm tremor, left shoulder
injury, rotoscoliosis, and hearing loss. (Doc. 11-1, 21). In
the third step, the ALJ found that those severe impairments
did not meet and were not the equivalent of any of the listed
impairments. (Doc. 11-1, 23). The step three analysis
continued with the ALJ determining Walker retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with
limitations on climbing, crawling, and reaching. (Doc. 11-1,
24). Those restrictions led the ALJ to determine at the
fourth step that Walker could return to a previous job,
referring to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for
analogous positions and the impact of the assessed
limitations. (Doc. 11-1, 27-28). The ALJ therefore determined
Walker was not under a disability between the alleged onset
date and the date he was last insured. (Doc. 11-1, 28).
then applied to the Appeals Council, which denied review on
June 23, 2016. Therefore, the ALJ's decision is the
Commissioner's final decision and is properly before the
Court for review. Higginbotham v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d
332, 334 (5th Cir. 2005) ("[t]he Commissioner's
final decision includes the Appeals Council's denial of
[a claimant's] request for review").
to the pleadings, testimony at the administrative hearing,
and administrative record, Walker was 64 and living with his
wife at the time of the administrative hearing. He had
employment history in oil field production and sales, farm
equipment use and delivery, and flooring sales and
installation. He believes his physical and mental impairments
render him disabled under the Act.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled if he is unable 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
twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §§ l382(c)(a)(3)(A),
423 (d)(1)(A) (2012). '"Substantial gainful
activity' is work activity involving significant physical
or mental abilities for pay or profit." Masterson v.
Bamhart, 309 F.3d 267, 271 n.2 (5th Cir. 2002); 20
C.F.R. § 404.l572(a)-(b).
evaluate a disability claim, the Commissioner follows 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); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). "The
claimant bears the burden of showing [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, 501 F.3d at 448. Before proceeding to steps
4 and 5, the Commissioner must assess a claimant's RFC.
Perez v. Bamhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005).
RFC is defined as "the most [a claimant] can still do
despite [the claimant's] limitations." 20 C.F.R.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny
disability benefits is limited to an inquiry into whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
findings, and whether the Commissioner applied the proper
legal standards. Waters v. Bamhart, 276 F.3d 716,
718 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Estate of Morris v.
Shalala, 207 F.3d 744, 745 (5th Cir. 2000)). Substantial
evidence "is more than a mere scintilla and less than a
preponderance" and includes "such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452
(5th Cir. 2000); Watson v. Barnhart, 288 F.3d 212,
215 (5th Cir. 2002). If substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's findings, then the findings are conclusive
and the Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Newton, 209 F.3d at 452. The
Court may not reweigh the evidence, try the issues de
novo, or substitute its judgment for the
Commissioner's, even if the Court believes that the
evidence weighs against the Commissioner's decision.
Masterson, 309 F.3d at 272. Moreover,
"[c]onflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner
and not the courts to resolve." Newton, 209
F.3d at 452.
alleges the ALJ erred to consider medical opinion evidence in
compliance with regulations and precedent, and failed to
sufficiently incorporate Walker's self-described