United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Luella Betty G. 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 is reversed and this case remanded to the
Commissioner of Social Security for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
alleges that is she disabled as a result of a degenerative
disc disease. See Administrative Record [Dkt. No.
13-1] (“Tr.”) at 209. Alleging an onset date of
March 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental social security income, which the Commissioner
initially denied - and denied again on reconsideration.
See Id. at 56, 66. Plaintiff then requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). See Id. at 117. That hearing
was held on November 8, 2016. See id. at 24-55. At
the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 61 years old and had
completed high school. See Id. at 30-31. Plaintiff
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her
onset date of March 1, 2015. See Id. at 12.
found that Plaintiff was not disabled. See Id. at
19. Although the medical evidence established that Plaintiff
suffered from the severe impairments of lumbar and cervical
degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease, 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 16. The ALJ further
determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except [she] can frequently climb ramps and stairs
and frequently kneel. Claimant can occasionally climb
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and occasionally stoop, kneel,
and balance. She is limited to occasional bilateral overhead
See Id. at 16. As such, ALJ found that Plaintiff was
not disabled and was capable of performing past relvant work
as a project director or a office manager. See id.
appealed that decision to the Appeals Council, which affirmed
the ALJ's decision. See Id. at 1-5, 172-74.
then filed this action in federal district court.
See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff challenges the hearing
decision on the grounds that (1) “the ALJ failed to
support with substantial evidence her rejection of mental
health issues at Step Two, and failed to afford sufficient
weight to the opinions of the consultative examiner and
treating physicians, ” and (2) “the ALJ failed to
afford sufficient weight to the physical opinion of
Plaintiff's treating physician in an RFC unsupported by
substantial evidence, and likely resulting in a
misapplication of the medical vocational guidelines.”
See Dkt. No. 22 at 1.
Court concludes that the hearing decision should be reversed
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 ...