United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler Division
RAJINA R. PARROTT, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION
LOVE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
October 3, 2017, Plaintiff initiated this civil action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 405(g), seeking judicial review
of the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's
application for Social Security benefits. (Doc. No. 1.)
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to
the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the
entry of judgment in this case. (Doc. No. 17, at 1-2.) For
the reasons stated below, the Court REMANDS
this case to the Commissioner pursuant to the fourth sentence
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
24, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”), alleging
disability beginning July 1, 2009. (Transcript
(“Tr.”) at 56, 291-303). The claims were denied
initially on October 29, 2013 and upon reconsideration on
June 5, 2014. Id. at 122, 132. Plaintiff sought
review of the denial at an administrative hearing.
Id. at 141. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
on June 27, 2016 and Plaintiff again sought review.
Id. at 15-31. On June 13, 2017 Plaintiff's
request for review was denied by the Appeals Council.
Id. at 1. Therefore, the ALJ's decision became
the Commissioner's final decision. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000). Plaintiff has filed
this instant action for review.
II of the Act provides for federal disability insurance
benefits. Title XVI of the Act provides for supplemental
security income. Judicial review of the denial of disability
benefits under section 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), is limited to “determining whether the decision
is supported by substantial evidence in the record and
whether the proper legal standards were used in evaluating
the evidence.” Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d
431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Villa v. Sullivan,
895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1990)); Muse v.
Sullivan, 925 F.2d 785, 789 (5th Cir. 1991) (per
curiam). A finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate
only where there is a conspicuous absence of credible choices
or no contrary medical evidence. Homan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 84 F.Supp.2d 814, 818 (E.D. Tex.
2000). Accordingly, the Court “may not reweigh the
evidence in the record, nor try the issues de novo,
” and is not allowed to substitute its judgment for the
Commissioner's judgment. Id. (quoting
Bowling, 36 F.3d at 435). Rather, conflicts in the
evidence are for the Commissioner to decide. Id.
(citing Spellman v. Shalala, 1 F.3d 357, 360 (5th
Cir. 1993)); see Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614,
617 (5th Cir. 1990). A decision on the ultimate issue of
whether a claimant is disabled, as defined in the Act, rests
with the Commissioner. Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d
448, 455-56 (5th Cir. 2000); SSR 96-5p, 1996 WL 374183 (July
evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance-that is, enough that a reasonable mind would
judge it sufficient to support the decision.” Brown
v. Astrue, 344 Fed.Appx. 16, 18-19 (5th Cir. 2009)
(citing Pena v. Astrue, 271 Fed.Appx. 382, 383 (5th
Cir. 2003)). Substantial evidence includes four factors: (1)
objective medical facts or clinical findings; (2) diagnoses
of examining physicians; (3) subjective evidence of pain and
disability; and (4) the plaintiff's age, education, and
work history. Id. at 19 (citing Fraga v.
Bowen, 810 F.2d 1296, 1302 n.4 (5th Cir. 1987)).
However, the Court must do more than “rubber
stamp” a decision by the ALJ, it must “scrutinize
the record and take into account whatever fairly detracts
from the substantiality of evidence supporting the
[Commissioner]'s findings.” Cook v.
Heckler, 750 F.2d 391, 393 (5th Cir. 1985) (internal
has the burden for proving disability. Id. (citing
Wren v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 123, 125 (5th Cir.
1991)). A disability is an “inability 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 can be expected to last
for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42
U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner uses a five step sequential
process to determine if the claimant is disabled, and finding
“disabled” or “not disabled” at any
step of the sequential process ends the inquiry. Villa v.
Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990). Step One
determines whether the claimant is actually engaged in any
“substantial gainful activity.” At Step Two, the
Commissioner determines whether the claimed physical and/or
mental impairments are “severe.” At Step Three,
the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has an
impairment or combination of impairments that meet or equal
one of the listings in Appendix I. This step also involves
determining the claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”), or the most that the claimant can do
given his impairments, both severe and non-severe. Step Four
determines whether the claimant is capable of performing his
past relevant work. Finally, Step Five determines whether the
claimant can perform other work available in the local or
national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b)-(f),
416.920(b)-(f). An affirmative answer at Step One or negative
answer at Steps Two, Four, or Five results in a finding of
“not disabled.” Villa, 895 F.2d at 1022.
An affirmative answer at Step Three, or an affirmative answer
at Steps Four and Five, creates a presumption of disability.
Id. The burden of proof is on the claimant for the
first four steps, but shifts to the Commissioner at Step Five
if the claimant shows that he cannot perform his past
relevant work. Anderson v. Sullivan, 887 F.2d 630,
632-33 (5th Cir. 1989) (per curiam).
LAW JUDGE'S FINDINGS
made the following findings in his June 27, 2016 decision:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 1, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following “severe”
physical and mental impairments: history of bladder cancer;
bipolar disorder; major depression; anxiety disorder;
borderline personality disorder; and polysubstance abuse (20
CFR 404.1520(c) and 419.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), ...