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Andrea P. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 28, 2019

Andrea P., on behalf of Edward Schiebel, deceased Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RENEE HARRIS TOLIVER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the parties' consent, Doc. 12, the Court now considers the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Doc. 16; Doc. 18. Upon consideration of the pleadings and relevant law, and for the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 16, is GRANTED, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 18, is DENIED, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED, and this case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with the Court's rulings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying her deceased father's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). Doc. 1 at 1. For ease of reference, the Court will refer to the decedent, Edward Schiebel, as Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed for benefits in February 2013, ultimately claiming that he became disabled on that date. Doc. 8-1 at 36-38. Because Plaintiff's date last insured (“DLI”) was September 30, 2014, Doc. 8-1 at 19; Doc. 8-1 at 277, the period under consideration for purposes of his DIB application is from February 2013 through September 2014. Plaintiff's claims were denied at all administrative levels, and he now appeals to this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Doc. 8-1 at 8-9; Doc. 8-1 at 17-24; Doc. 8-1 at 121-30; Doc. 8-1 at 158-59.

         B. Factual History[1]

         Plaintiff was 56 years old on his alleged onset of disability. Doc. 8-1 at 21; Doc. -1 at 155. He completed three years of college and had worked as a paralegal intermittently for 27 years. Doc. 8-1 at 35, 41, 46. In terms of his medical history, the record shows that Plaintiff suffered from edema bilaterally, polycythemia, shoulder pain and diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Doc. 8-1 at 373-74; Doc. 8-1 at 418-19; Doc. 8-1 at 509-10, 529. His DLI was September 30, 2014. Plaintiff passed away on October 14, 2015. Doc. 8-1 at 290.

         C. The ALJ's Findings

         The ALJ held that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of congestive heart failure, COPD, history of lung cancer, and degenerative joint disease. Doc. 8-1 at 19. After consideration of the evidence, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to carry out a limited range of light work. Doc. 8-1 at 24. The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff could still perform his past relevant work as a “court clerk.” Doc. 8-1 at 25-26.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         An individual is disabled under the Act if, inter alia, he is “unable 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 at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In determining whether an individual is disabled, the Commissioner uses a five-step inquiry: (1) an individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled; (2) an individual who does not have a “severe impairment” is not disabled; (3) an individual who “meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1” of the regulations will be considered disabled without consideration of vocational factors; (4) if an individual is capable of performing his past relevant work, a finding of “not disabled” must be made; (5) if an individual's impairment precludes him from performing his past work, other factors including age, education, past work experience, and RFC must be considered to determine if any other work can be performed. Wren v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 123, 125 (5th Cir. 1991) (per curium) (summarizing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b)-(f), 416.920 (b)-(f)).

         Under the first four steps of the analysis, the burden of proof lies with the claimant. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 564 (5th Cir. 1995). If the claimant satisfies his burden under the first four steps, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show that there is other gainful employment available in the national economy that the claimant can perform. Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994).

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to whether the Commissioner's position is supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner applied proper legal standards in evaluating the evidence. Greenspan, 38 F.3d at 236; 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(C)(3). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant and sufficient evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Leggett, 67 F.3d at 564. Under this standard, the reviewing court does not reweigh the evidence, retry the issues, or substitute its own judgment, but rather, scrutinizes the record to determine whether substantial evidence is present. Greenspan, 38 F.3d at 236.

         III. ...


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