United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CHRISTINA A. BRYAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lynda Elaine Moody filed this case under the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) for review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her request for
social security benefits. Moody and the Commissioner moved
for summary judgment (Dkts. 9, 10). After considering the
pleadings, the record, and the applicable law, the court
DENIES Moody's motion,
GRANTS the Commissioner's motion, and
AFFIRMS the final decision of the
Factual and Administrative History
filed claims for disabled widow social security insurance and
supplemental security income benefits on October 8, 2015. She
alleged the onset of disability as of October 1, 2015
primarily due to breast cancer and related treatments.
Dkt.3-8 at 6. The agency denied her claim on initial review
and reconsideration. Dkt. 3-3 at 16. An administrative law
judge (ALJ) held a hearing on February 9, 2017 at which Moody
and a vocational expert, Kay S. Gilreath, testified.
issued an unfavorable decision denying Moody's
applications for benefits on June 6, 2017. The Appeals
Council denied review on October 17, 2017, and the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.984(b)(2) and
416.1484(b)(2). Moody filed this case on July 10, 2018.
Standard for District Court Review of the Commissioner's
405(g) of the Act governs the standard of review in social
security disability cases. Waters v. Barnhart, 276
F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 2002). Federal court
review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny
Social Security benefits is limited to two inquiries: (1)
whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standard;
and (2) whether the Commissioner's decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Copeland v. Colvin, 771
F.3d 920, 923 (5th Cir. 2014); Jones v. Apfel, 174
F.3d 692, 693 (5th Cir. 1999).
respect to all decisions other than conclusions of law,
“[i]f the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence, they are conclusive and must be
affirmed.” Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457,
461 (5th Cir. 2005). “Substantial evidence
is ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236
(5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence
has also been defined as “more than a mere scintilla
and less than a preponderance.” Masterson v.
Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 272 (5th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452
(5th Cir. 2000)). When reviewing the
Commissioner's decision, the court does not reweigh the
evidence, try the questions de novo, or substitute
its own judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Masterson, 309 F.3d at 272. Conflicts in the
evidence are for the Commissioner to resolve, not the courts.
Id. The courts strive for judicial review that is
“deferential without being so obsequious as to be
meaningless.” Brown v. Apfel, 192 F.3d 492,
496 (5th Cir. 1999).
court considers four types of evidence in the record when
determining whether there is substantial evidence of
disability: (1) objective medical facts; (2) diagnoses and
opinions of treating and examining physicians; (3) the
claimant's subjective evidence of pain and disability;
and (4) the claimant's age, education, and work history.
Wren v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 123, 126
(5thCir.1991); Hamilton-Provost v.
Colvin, 605 Fed.Appx. 233, 236 (5th Cir.
Disability Determination Standards
must follow a five-step sequential analysis to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Waters, 276 F.3d at 718. The
Social Security Act defines “disability” as the
“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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months.”
Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 618
(5th Cir. 1990) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)). A finding at any point in the five-step
sequence that the claimant is disabled, or is not disabled,
ends the analysis. Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55,
58 (5th Cir. 1987).
first step, the ALJ decides whether the claimant is currently
working or “engaged in substantial gainful
activity.” Work is “substantial” if it
involves doing significant physical or mental activities, and
“gainful” if it is the kind of work usually done
for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572, 416.972;
Copeland v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 920, 924
(5th Cir. 2014).
second step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has
a severe impairment. Under applicable regulations, an
impairment is severe if it “significantly limits your
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). Under binding Fifth Circuit precedent,
“[a]n impairment can be considered as not severe
only if it is a slight abnormality having such
minimal effect on the individual that it would not be
expected to interfere with the individual's ability to
work, irrespective of age, education or work
experience.” Loza v. Apfel, 219 F.3d 378, 391
(5th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added) (quoting Stone v.
Heckler, 752 F.2d 1099, 1101 (5th Cir. 1985)).
“Re-stated, an impairment is severe if it is anything
more than a “slight abnormality” that
“would not be expected to interfere” ...