United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
Bray, United States Magistrate Judge.
Trina Gay Scherer appeals the Social Security Administration
Commissioner's final decision denying her application for
social security benefits. (D.E. 1.) Pending before the court
is Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. 12) and
Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. (D.E. 14.)
Having carefully considered the motions, filings, and
applicable law, the court affirms the final decision of the
applied for disability insurance benefits on November 9,
2015. She claimed to suffer from physical and mental
impairments with an onset date of August 27, 2015. After her
application was denied on an initial review and on
reconsideration, Scherer requested a hearing.
hearing was held on March 31, 2017. The ALJ issued a decision
on July 24, 2017, finding Scherer not disabled. The Appeals
Council denied Scherer's request for review on May 15,
2018. Scherer filed this complaint in federal court to appeal
the ALJ's decision.
Social Security Act provides disability insurance benefits to
people who have contributed to the program and have a
physical or mental disability. See 42 U.S.C. §
423. It defines disability as the "inability to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment. . .
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months." See 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner uses a sequential, five-step approach to
determine whether the claimant is disabled. The claimant
bears the burden of proof on the first four steps, but the
Commissioner bears the burden on the fifth step. Newton
v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 455 (5th Cir. 2000). A finding
that the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point in
the five-step review terminates the analysis. Johnson v.
Bowen, 851 F.2d 748, 751 (5th Cir. 1988).
one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is involved
in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)
(2017). A person who is working and engaging in substantial
gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the medical
findings. Wren v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 123, 125 (5th
two, the ALJ determines whether any of the claimant's
impairments is severe, irrespective of age, education, or
work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) (2017). An
impairment is 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." Stone v.
Heckler, 752 F.2d 1099, 1101 (5th Cir. 1985). A person
who does not have a severe impairment is not disabled.
Wren, 925 F.2d at 125.
next determines, at step three, if the claimant's severe
impairments "meet or equal a listed impairment in
appendix 1." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d) (2017);
see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (2017)
(the "Listings"). If all the criteria of a Listing
are met, the claimant is considered disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(d) (2017).
reaching the final two steps, the ALJ must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) "based
on all the relevant medical and other evidence." 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(e) (2017). An RFC assessment "is
a determination of the most the claimant can still do despite
his physical and mental limitations and is based on all
relevant evidence in the claimant's record."
Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461-62 (5th Cir.
2005) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1)).
four, the RFC is used to determine whether the claimant can
perform past relevant work. Perez, 415 F.3d at 462.
If the claimant can perform their past work, the claimant is
not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f) (2017). If not,
the ALJ proceeds to step five. 20 C.F.R. §
five, the ALJ determines whether the claimant can perform any
other work by considering the claimant's RFC and other
factors, including age, education, and past work experience.
Perez, 415 F.3d at 462. If the claimant can perform
other work available in the national economy, the claimant is
Substantial Evidence Standard of Review
court's "review of the ALJ's disability
determination is 'highly deferential': [it] ask[s]
only whether substantial evidence supports the decision and
whether the correct legal standards were employed."
Garcia v. Berryhill, 880 F.3d 700, 704 (5th Cir.
2018). "A decision is supported by substantial evidence
if credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support
the decision." Salmond v. Berryhill, 892 F.3d
812, 817 (5th Cir. 2018). "Substantial evidence is more
than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance."
Id. The reviewing court is required to examine the
record as a whole to determine whether substantial evidence
supported the ALJ's decision. Randall v.
Sullivan, 956 F.2d 105, 109 (5th Cir. 1992).
ALJ's Decision and Administrative Records