United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
RAY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
filed this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c) seeking judicial review of the unfavorable decision
by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) regarding her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“SSA”). (ECF No. 1
at 1; Tr. 12). After considering the pleadings, briefs, and
administrative record, the undersigned recommends that United
States District Judge Reed O'Connor
AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
applied for DIB on October 27, 2015, alleging disability
based on anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, migraines,
history of breast cancer, and obesity. (ECF No. 16 at 2). The
Commissioner initially denied her application on February 1,
2016 and again upon reconsideration on May 9, 2016. (Tr. 12).
Plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id.
at 25). She attended the hearing before ALJ Daniel Curran on
April 10, 2017 in Dallas, Texas and testified. (Id.
at 12). Also present were her non-attorney representative,
Sean Sullivan, and a vocational expert (“VE”).
(Id.). On July 18, 2017, the ALJ rendered a decision
finding that she was not disabled. (Id. at 12-25).
the ALJ employed the statutory five-step analysis and
established during step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2015. (Tr. 14). At
step two, the ALJ determined that she had the severe
impairments of fibromyalgia, migraines, status post-malignant
neoplasm of the breast, obesity, anxiety, and affective
disorder. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ found that
her impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404(p). (Id.).
The ALJ concluded that she retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b).
(Id. at 17-23). At step four, the ALJ determined
that she was unable to perform her past relevant work.
(Id. at 23). And at step five, the ALJ decided that
there were a significant number of jobs in the national
economy that she could perform. (Id. at 24-25).
Appeals Council denied review on July 10, 2018. (Tr. 1-3).
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 review.”).
to her pleadings, testimony at the administrative hearing,
and administrative record, Plaintiff was forty-seven years
old on the alleged disability onset date of June 1, 2015, and
forty-nine years old at the time of the administrative
hearing. (ECF No. 16 at 3; Tr. 12). She completed a high
school education, and her employment history includes work as
an order puller, inspector, and warehouse coordinator. (ECF
No. 16 at 3). She asserts that her physical and mental
impairments render her disabled under the SSA.
II, 42 U.S.C. § 404 et seq., of the SSA governs
the disability insurance program in addition to numerous
regulations concerning disability insurance. See 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404. The SSA defines a disability as a
“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” that
prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful
activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d); McQueen v. Apfel,
168 F.3d 152, 154 (5th Cir. 1999).
determine whether a claimant is disabled and thus entitled to
disability benefits, the Commissioner employs a sequential
five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First, the
claimant must not be presently working at any substantial
gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
“Substantial gainful activity” means work
activity involving the use of significant physical or mental
abilities for pay or profit. Masterson v. Barnhart,
309 F.3d 267, 271 n.2 (5th Cir. 2002). Second, the claimant
must have an impairment or combination of impairments that is
severe. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c); see Stone v.
Heckler, 752 F.2d 1099, 1100-03 (5th Cir. 1985). Third,
disability exists if the impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals an impairment in the Listing of
Impairments (“Listing”), 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). Fourth, if
the claimant's medical status alone does not constitute a
disability, the impairment or impairments must prevent the
claimant from returning to his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). Fifth, the impairment must prevent the
claimant from doing any work, considering the claimant's
RFC, age, education, and past work experience. Crowley v.
Apfel, 197 F.3d 194, 197-98 (5th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). “The claimant bears the burden of
showing that [he] is 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 v. Astrue,
501 F.3d 446, 448 (5th Cir. 2007). Before proceeding to steps
four and five, the Commissioner must assess a claimant's
RFC-“the most [a claimant] can still do despite [his]
limitations.” Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457,
461-62 (5th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1).
Court's decision is limited to a determination of whether
the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and
whether substantial evidence in the record supports the
decision. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 564 (5th
Cir. 1995); Hollis v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1382
(5th Cir. 1988). “Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a responsible mind might accept to support a
conclusion.” Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704
(5th Cir. 2001). “It is more than a mere scintilla and
less than a preponderance.” Id. “A
finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate only if no
credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the
decision.” Id. The Court may neither reweigh
the evidence in the record nor substitute its judgment for
the Commissioner's, but it will scrutinize the record to
determine if evidence is present. Harris v. Apfel,
209 F.3d 413, 417 (5th Cir. 2000); Hollis, 837 F.2d
at 1383. “Conflicts in the evidence are for the
Commissioner and not the courts to resolve.” Newton
v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting
Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir.
raises four issues on appeal: (1) the ALJ failed to properly
consider all of her functional limitations in determining her
RFC; (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical
opinion evidence; (3) the ALJ's hypothetical question to
the VE did not reasonably incorporate her physical
limitations; and (4) the ALJ's failure to ...