United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kenneth S. 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
decision should be reversed and this case remanded to the
Commissioner of Social Security for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
Plaintiff alleges that is he disabled as a result of left
ventricular hypertrophy, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia,
idiopathic peripheral autonomic neuropathy, atrial dilation,
a dilated ventricle, primary pulmonary hypertension,
orthostatic hypotension dysautonomic syndrome, upper
respiratory infection, and lumber strain. See
Administrative Record [Dkt. No. 13-1] (“Tr.”) at
290. Alleging an onset date of March 24, 2014, Plaintiff
filed an application for supplemental social security income,
which the Commissioner initially denied - and denied again on
reconsideration. See Id. at 98-117. Plaintiff then
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). See id. at 133-34.
That hearing was held on October 18, 2016. See Id.
at 49-97. A supplemental hearing was held on February 10,
2017, where Dr. James Gray, a consultive examiner, and
Plaintiff appeared and testified. See id. at 32-48.
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 56 years old and
had completed high school. See Id. at 61. Plaintiff
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his
onset date of March 24, 2014. See Id. at 14.
found that Plaintiff was not disabled. See Id. at
26. Although the medical evidence established that Plaintiff
suffered from the severe impairments of obesity, congestive
heart failure with hypertension, osteomyelitis and great toe
amputation, and diabetes mellitus with early retinopathy and
peripheral neuropathy, the ALJ concluded that the severity of
those impairments did not meet or equal any impairment listed
in the social security regulations. See Id. at 14.
The ALJ further determined that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except standing and/or walking four hours total in an
eight-hour workday. The claimant can lift and carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently and sit six hours total
in an eight-hour workday. He can occasionally climb ramps or
stairs and never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can
frequently stoop and occasionally crouch, crawl, or kneel.
The claimant cannot perform tasks that specifically require
balancing on narrow objects like beams or elevated walkways,
but he retains the ordinary balance to stand, walk, and
perform other postural movements. He cannot work in high heat
or humidity, but he can pass through such areas for 10
minutes or less at one time to reach another
See Id. at 20. As such, ALJ found that Plaintiff was
not disabled and was capable of performing past relvant work
as a data entry clerk. See id. at 25.
appealed that decision to the Appeals Council, which affirmed
the ALJ's decision. See Id. at 1-5, 227-29.
then filed this action in federal district court.
See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff challenges the hearing
decision on the grounds that (1) the ALJ's Step Four
finding that Plaintiff retained the residual functioning
capacity to perform his past relevant work as a data entry
clerk was not supported by substantial evidence, and that (2)
the ALJ's hypothetical question, on which the ALJ relied,
was not supported by substantial evidence and the vocational
expert's response to this question was not substantial
undersigned concludes that the hearing decision should be
reversed and remanded.
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 552-55 (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 ...