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Turner v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Texas

August 6, 2019

Arthur L. Turner, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy Berryhill, Defendant.

          OPINION ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lynn N. Hughes United States District Judge

         1. Introduction

         Arthur L. Turner brought this action for judicial review of the commissioner's final decision to deny him disability insurance benefits. The question is whether substantial evidence supports the commissioner's decision. It does.

         2. Background

         Turner applied for disability benefits on May 5, 2014. He was forty-three years old at the time. Turner claimed to suffer from type 2 diabetes and related neuropathy. He has a high school education and last worked a truck driver on November 1, 2012.

         The hearing officer found that Turner suffers from several severe impairments, including diabetes, degenerative disc disease of the spine, rotator cuff tear, bursitis, peripheral neuropathy, and major depressive disorder. None of the impairments prevents Turner from working. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the hearing officer found that Turner could work as an order filler, a supply clerk, or a gate guard. He is therefore not disabled.

         3. Legal Framework

         a. Standard of Review

         This court's review is limited to determining whether the commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were employed. Garcia v. Berryhill, 880 F.3d 700, 704 (5th Cir. 2018). The court "does not reweigh the evidence in the record, try the issues de novo, or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's, even if the evidence weighs against the Commissioner's decision." Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). "Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner and not the courts to resolve." Id. "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).

         b. Statutory Criteria

         The 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 determinate physical or mental impairment . . . which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         The 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, 209 F.3d at 455. First, a person who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled. Second, a person who does not have a severe impairment is not disabled. Third, a person whose severe impairments meet or equal an impairment in appendix 1 of the regulations is deemed disabled. The commissioner must determine the person's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), which is a determination of the most the cl aimant can still do despite her physical and mental limitations. The RFC is used in the fourth and fifth steps of the analysis to determine whether the claimant can perform past relevant work or any other work that is significant in the national economy.

         4. Analysis

         The hearing officer followed the correct legal rules, and his findings are ...


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