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Condrey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Texas

May 2, 2019

Cynthia G. Condrey, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy Berryhill, Defendant.

          OPINION ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lynn N. Hughes United States District Judge.

         1. Introduction

         Cynthia G. Condrey brought this action for judicial review of the commissioner's final decision to deny her disability insurance benefits. The question is whether substantial evidence supports the commissioner's decision. It does.

         2. Background

         Condrey applied for disability benefits on August 27, 2014. She claimed to suffer from several physical and mental conditions, including fibromyalgia, lupus, arthritis, seizures, migraine headaches, epilepsy, neuropathy, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Condrey claimed she could not sit or stand for long periods, that she could pay attention only for two to three minutes, and that she would fall asleep without realizing it. She also claimed to have an uncontrolled seizure disorder.

         Condrey alleged that she became disabled in 2011, but later amended the onset date to April 30, 2014. Condrey graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in business. Before 2011 she worked as a security guard and in various administrative and office jobs.

         The hearing officer found that Condrey suffers from numerous severe impairments. Because none of those impairments prevent Condrey from returning to her previous work, the hearing officer found that Condrey is not disabled.

         3. Legal Framework

         a. Standard of Review

         This court's review is limited to determining whether commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were employed. Garcia v. Berryhill, 880 F.3d 700, 704 (5th Cir. 2018). The court "does not reweigh the evidence in the record, try the issues de novo, or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's, even if the evidence weighs against the Commissioner's decision." Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). "Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner and not the courts to resolve." Id. "A decision is supported by substantial evidence if credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the decision." Salmond v. Berryhill, 892 F.3d 812, 817 (5th Cir. 2018).

         b. Statutory and Regulatory Criteria

         The Social Security Act provides disability insurance benefits to people who have contributed to the program and have a physical or mental disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 423. It defines disability as the "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)(1)(A).

         The Commissioner uses a sequential, five-step approach to determine whether the claimant is disabled. The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps, but the Commissioner bears the burden on the fifth step. Newton, 209 F.3d at 455. First, a person who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled. Second, a person who does not have a severe impairment is not disabled. Third, a person whose severe impairments meet or equal an impairment in appendix 1 of the regulations is deemed disabled. The commissioner must determine the person's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), which is a determination of the most the claimant can still do despite her physical and mental limitations. The RFC is used in the fourth and fifth steps of the analysis to determine whether the claimant can perform past relevant work or any other work that is significant in the national economy.

         4. ...


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