United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
CLINTON B. Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). For the reasons explained below, the hearing
decision should be reversed.
alleges that he is disabled as a result of back pain due to a
car accident, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
hypertension, and anxiety. After his applications for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits was
denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested
a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). That hearing was held on July 23, 2015.
See Dkt. No. 11 (Administrative Record [Tr.”])
at 107-156. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 53
years old. He is a high school graduate and has past work
experience as a sandblaster. Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since August 31, 2014.
found that Plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not
entitled to SSI benefits. See Id. at 92-103.
Although the medical evidence established that Plaintiff
suffered from major depressive disorder and personality
disorder, the ALJ concluded that the severity of those
impairments did not meet or equal any impairment listed in
the social security regulations. The ALJ further determined
that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to a
limited range of work at all exertional levels, but could not
return to his past relevant employment. Relying on a
vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was capable of working as a garment sorter or
marking clerk -- jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy.
appealed that decision to the Appeals Council. The Council
single ground for relief, Plaintiff contends that the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) finding was
not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed
to apply the 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c) factors before
rejecting Plaintiff's treating source opinion.
undersigned concludes that the hearing decision should be
reversed and this case remanded to the Commissioner of Social
Security for further proceedings consistent with these
findings and conclusions.
review in social security cases is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards to evaluate
the evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Copeland v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 920, 923 (5th Cir.
2014); Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir.
1995). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
accord Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923. The Commissioner,
rather than the courts, must resolve conflicts in the
evidence, including weighing conflicting testimony and
determining witnesses' credibility, and the Court does
not try the issues de novo. See Martinez v.
Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 174 (5th Cir. 1995); Greenspan
v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 237 (5th Cir. 1994). This Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for
the Commissioner's but must scrutinize the entire record
to ascertain whether substantial evidence supports the
hearing decision. See Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923;
Hollis v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1383 (5th Cir.
1988). The Court “may affirm only on the grounds that
the Commissioner stated for [the] decision.”
Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923.
order to qualify for disability insurance benefits or
[supplemental security income], a claimant must suffer from a
disability.” Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)). A disabled worker is entitled to monthly
social security benefits if certain conditions are met.
See 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). The Act defines
“disability” as the inability to engage in
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or last for a continued period of
12 months. See Id. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also
Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923; Cook v. Heckler, 750
F.2d 391, 393 (5th Cir. 1985).
evaluating a disability claim, the Commissioner conducts 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.
Astrue, 501 F.3d 446, 447-48 (5th Cir. 2007).
claimant bears the initial burden of establishing a
disability through the first four steps of the analysis; on
the fifth, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
there is other substantial work in the national economy that
the claimant can perform. See Copeland, 771 F.3d at
923; Audler, 501 F.3d at 448. A finding that the
claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point in the
five-step review is conclusive and terminates the analysis.
See Copeland, 771 F.3d at 923; Lovelace v.
Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 58 (5th Cir. 1987).
reviewing the propriety of a decision that a claimant is not
disabled, the Court's function is to ascertain whether
the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's final decision. The Court
weighs four elements to determine whether there is
substantial evidence of disability: (1) objective medical
facts; (2) diagnoses and opinions of treating and examining
physicians; (3) subjective ...