United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Abilene Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
COTT FROST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security, who denied his application for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and
XVI 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 SSI on February 28, 2014 and an
application for DIB on April 7 of the same year, alleging
impairments that were disabling as of September 11, 2013.
That application was denied initially and after
reconsideration. The plaintiff requested a hearing, which was
held before an Administrative Law Judge on September 14,
2015. The ALJ issued a decision on February 2, 2017 finding
him not disabled.
the ALJ found during step one that the plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity after the alleged
onset date. (Doc. 16-1, 57). At step two, the ALJ found that
he had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression,
lumbar spondylosis, chronic urinary retention, and
fibromyalgia. (Doc. 16-1, 57). In the third step, the ALJ
found those severe impairments did not meet and were not the
equivalent of any listed impairments. (Doc. 16-1, 57). The
step three analysis continued with the ALJ determining the
claimant retained the residual functional capacity to perform
light work with some limitations. (Doc. 16-1, 59). The ALJ
determined that the plaintiff could not return to any past
relevant work, but that there were jobs the claimant could
perform. (Doc. 16-1, 67-68). The ALJ therefore determined he
was not under a disability between the alleged onset date and
the date the decision was issued. (Doc. 16-1, 69).
plaintiff then applied to the Appeals Council, which denied
review on November 27, 2017. 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
to the pleadings, testimony at the administrative hearing,
and administrative record, the plaintiff was 46 and living
with his wife and four children at the time of the
administrative hearing. He has some college education and
work history as a truck driver. He believes his physical and
mental impairments render him disabled under the Act.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled if they are 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.
Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 271 n.2 (5th Cir. 2002); 20
C.F.R. § 4O4.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. Astrye, 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 [they are] 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. Barnhart, 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. § 416.945(a)(1).
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. Barnhart, 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. Bamhart, 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. Berates, 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.
plaintiff alleges the RFC assessed by the ALJ is inconsistent
with limitations from impairments she ...