United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
ANTHONY A. PEARCE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION; Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
RICHARD B. FARRER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Honorable United States District Judge Xavier Rodriguez
Report and Recommendation concerns Plaintiff Anthony A.
Pearce's request for judicial review of the
administrative denial of his application for
disability-insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act. This action was assigned for a report and
recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 1(h)
of Appendix C to the Local Rules, and the docket management
order entered on October 8, 2019 in the San Antonio Division
of the Western District of Texas. The Court has jurisdiction
to review a final decision of the Social Security
Administration. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Authority to enter this recommendation stems from 28 U.S.C.
considering Pearce's Brief, Dkt. No. 19, the Brief in
Support of the Commissioner's Decision, Dkt. No. 20, the
transcript of the administrative proceedings
(“Tr.”), Dkt. No. 16, the other pleadings on
file, the applicable authorities and regulatory provisions,
and the entire record in this matter, I conclude that
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision
and the administrative proceedings involved no reversible
legal error. The Commissioner's decision should therefore
Factual and Procedural Background
Pearce filed his application for disability-insurance
benefits on October 2, 2015, alleging a disability onset date
of July 9, 2015. See Tr. 182-83. Pearce was 45
years old on the date he alleges he became disabled and 48
years old at the time of the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) decision. Accordingly, Pearce is
considered a “younger person” at all times
pertinent to his claim. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1563(c). Pearce has a high school education and has
completed some college coursework. See Tr. 55.
Pearce alleged the following impairments render him disabled:
Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (Brain
Bleed), neck/shoulder/back injury, difficulty in social
situations, depression/anxiety, nausea/vomiting, chronic
pain, trouble speaking/thinking, high blood pressure, and
thyroid disorder. See Id. 76. Pearce's claim was
initially denied on May 5, 2016, id. 75-90, and once
again on October 24, 2016 after he requested reconsideration,
id. 91-108. Following the denial of his claim,
Pearce requested and received an administrative hearing.
Id. 125-69; 49-74. Pearce and his attorney attended
the hearing on October 19, 2017, at which Pearce and
vocational expert Judith Harper testified. Id.
denied Pearce's claim for benefits. Id. 22-43.
In reaching that conclusion, the ALJ found that Pearce met
the insured-status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2017 and, accordingly, the ALJ applied
the five-step sequential analysis required by the
regulations. Id. 24. At step one of the analysis,
the ALJ found that Pearce had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset
date through his date of last insured. Id. At step
two, the ALJ found that Pearce had the following severe
impairments: obesity; lumbar degenerative disc disease;
cervical degenerative disc disease left shoulder sprain;
migraine headaches; neurocognitive disorder; major depressive
disorder; and anxiety disorder. Id. 24-26. The ALJ,
however, found that Pearce's other impairments of
hypertension, thyroid disorder, and B-Cell lymphoma were not
severe. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that none
of Pearce's impairments meet or medically equal the
impairments of one of the listed impairments in the
applicable Social Security regulations. Id. 26-28.
reaching step four of the analysis, the ALJ found that Pearce
retains the physical capacity to perform less than the full
range of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(a), including lifting only 10 pounds occasionally
and less than 10 pounds frequently with the ability to stand
and/or walk for up to two hours in an eight-hour workday and
sit for up to six hours in an eight-hour work day. The ALJ
also imposed the following additional physical limitations:
[Pearce] is limited to occasionally climbing ramps and/or
stairs; and occasionally balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling. [Pearce] is limited to occasional
overhead reaching with the non-dominant left arm. [Pearce]
should avoid working at unprotected heights, climbing
ladders, ropes or scaffolds and working in close proximity to
dangerous machinery or moving mechanical parts of equipment.
[Pearce] should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold,
excessive noise, excessive vibration, and fumes, odors, dust,
gases, and poorly ventilated areas.
Id. 28. With respect to his mental residual
functional capacity, the ALJ determined that:
[Pearce] can understand and follow simple instructions and
directions; perform simple tasks with or without supervision;
maintain attention/concentration for simple tasks; and
regularly attend to a routine and maintain a schedule.
[Pearce] is limited to occasional interaction with co-workers
and supervisors, and no interaction wit the public. Work
should be limited to simple tasks involving only simple,
work-related decisions, with few, if any work place changes.
making this residual-functional-capacity assessment, the ALJ
afforded (1) “little weight” to the opinion of
neuropsychological consultant Dr. Sean G. Connolly; (2)
“partial weight” to the opinion of consultative
psychologist Dr. Kristine Gerwell; and (3)
“partial” weight to the opinions of the state
agency medical consultants. See Id. 40-41.
four, after considering this residual functional capacity and
the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined
that Pearce wasn't able to perform any past relevant work
as a car salesman, truck driver, or a sales manager.
Id. 41. At step five, however, the ALJ determined
that considering Pearce's age, educational factors, prior
work experience, and residual functional capacity, as well as
the testimony of the vocational expert, Pearce could perform
the following jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy: lens inserter (Dictionary of Occupational
Titles “DOT” # 713.687-026); polisher, eyeglass
frames (DOT # 713.684-038); and final assembler (DOT #
713.687-018)-positions that the DOT classifies as sedentary
and unskilled. Id. 42. Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Pearce was not disabled for purposes of the
Act, and therefore was not entitled to receive benefits.
subsequently requested review of the ALJ's finding, which
the Appeals Council denied. Id. 8-17. Accordingly,
on October 29, 2018, after exhausting all available
administrative remedies, Pearce sought judicial review of the
administrative determination. Dkt. No. 1.
of Review. To review the denial of benefits, a court
determines whether the Commissioner's decision applied
the proper legal standards and is supported by substantial
evidence. Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173 (5th
Cir. 1995); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla, less than preponderance,
and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Villa
v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021-22 (5th Cir. 1990)
(quoting Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th
reviewing court will “weigh four elements of proof 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.” Martinez, 64 F.3d at 174.
“‘[N]o substantial evidence' will be found
only where there is a ‘conspicuous absence of credible