United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
MIGUELA TORRES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a civil action seeking judicial review of an administrative
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff
Daniel Hernandez appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying his claims for Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the
Social Security Act ("the Act") and Supplemental
Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act.
The parties consented to the transfer of the case to this
Court for determination and entry of judgment. See
28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Local Court Rule CV-72. For the
reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision will
be REVERSED and the action REMANDED.
was twenty-eight years old at the time of his hearing before
the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R.
He has an associate's degree and has worked as a
commercial truck driver, satellite dish installer,
construction laborer, and basic energy and oil field worker.
(R. 29, 176). Hernandez filed applications for DIB and SSI on
August 27, 2012, in which he alleged disability beginning
July 26, 2012, due to chronic heart disease and as a result
of having suffered at least one stroke. (R. 152-59, 188).
After his applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Hernandez requested a hearing. (R. 113-14).
On March 20, 2014, a hearing was conducted before the ALJ.
(R. 24-46). On June 18, 2014, the ALJ issued a written
decision denying benefits on the ground that Hernandez was
capable of performing jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy. (R. 13-19). On September 20, 2015,
the Appeals Council denied Hernandez's request for
review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final administrative decision. (R. 1-3).
written decision, the ALJ found that Hernandez had the
following severe impairments: status-post cerebral vascular
accident (stroke) with residual hemiparesis of the left hand;
congestive heart failure, status-post implantable
cardioverter defibrillator; hypertension; obesity; and
obstructive sleep apnea. (R. 14). The ALJ found that
Hernandez had the residual functional capacity to:
lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds
frequently, and stand, walk, or sit for up to six hours of an
eight-hour workday. Further, he can occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl and occasionally handle and finger
with the left non-dominant hand. However, he must avoid
exposure to hazardous conditions such as unprotected heights
and dangerous moving machinery.
(R. 15). Hernandez argues that the ALJ erred in finding his
congestive heart failure did not meet or equal the
requirements of Listing 4.02. (PL's Br., ECF No. 20, at
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. Myers v. Apfel, 238 F.3d
617, 619 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting 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 to support a conclusion. Ripley v.
Chafer, 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)
determining whether there is substantial evidence to support
the findings of the Commissioner, the Court must carefully
examine the entire record, but may not reweigh the evidence
or try the issues de novo. Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d
448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). The Court 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) (citation
omitted). 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) (citation omitted). If the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards and the
findings are supported by substantial evidence, they are
conclusive and must be affirmed. Id.
Chronic Heart Failure, Listing 4.02
July 30, 2012, through August 1, 2012, Hernandez was
hospitalized and the discharge diagnoses were new stroke,
left hemiparesis, old stroke present, obesity, hypertension,
and obstructive sleep apnea. (R. 318-57). The sole issue
presented by Hernandez is whether his congestive heart
failure meets or equals the requirements of Listing 4.02.
(PL's Br., ECF No. 20, at 2). Disability claims are
evaluated according to a five-step sequential process: (1)
whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe,
medically-determinable physical or mental impairment or
combination of impairments; (3) whether the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals the
severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) whether the impairment or
combination of impairments prevents the claimant from
performing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the
impairment or combination of impairments prevents the
claimant from doing any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§
claimant bears the burden of proving through the use of
medical findings that he meets a listing at step three of the
sequential evaluation process. See Greenspan v.
Shalala,38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994); see also
McCuller v. Barnhart,72 Fed.Appx. 155, 158 (5th Cir.
2003). "For a claimant to show that his impairment
matches a listing, it must meet all of the specified
medical criteria." Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S.
521, 530 (1990). "The criteria in the medical listings
are 'demanding and stringent.'" Falco v.
Shalala,27 F.3d 160, 162 (5th Cir. 1994). "An
impairment that manifests only some of those criteria, no
matter how severely, does not qualify."
Sullivan, 493 U.S. at 530. "A claimant is
deemed to be conclusively disabled if his impairments meet,
or equal in severity, an impairment that ...