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Dickson v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

December 13, 2019

DANIEL DICKSON, Plaintiff
v.
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY; Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT F. CASTANEDA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil action seeking judicial review of an administrative decision. Jurisdiction is predicated upon 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claims for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. Both parties consented to trial on the merits before a United States Magistrate Judge, and the case was transferred to this Court for trial and entry of judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Appendix C to the Local Court Rules for the Western District of Texas. For the reasons set forth below, this Court orders that the Commissioner's decision be REVERSED and REMANDED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 5, 2015, Plaintiff first filed a Title II application alleging a disability onset date of November 1, 2014. (R:590-93). Plaintiff's claim was denied on September 16, 2015 (R:514- 18), denied upon reconsideration on February 5, 2016 (R:524-27), denied by the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on March 27, 2018. (R:432-43), and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 5, 2019. (R:1-4).

         II. ISSUES

         Plaintiff presents the following issues for review:

1. The ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination and impairment findings impermissibly omitted Plaintiff's chronic pain syndrome, long-term opioid pain management, and Plaintiff's use of a cane; and
2. The ALJ's RFC determination did not consider Plaintiff's objective medical evidence.

(ECF. No 14).

         III. DISCUSSION

         a. Standard of Review

         This Court's review is limited to a determination of whether the Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in evaluating the evidence. See Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173 (5th Cir. 1995); Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir. 1995). A finding of no substantial evidence will be made only where there is a “conspicuous absence of credible choices” or “no contrary medical evidence.” Abshire v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988) (citing Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir. 1983)). In reviewing the substantiality of the evidence, a court must consider the record as a whole and “must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.” Singletary v. Bowen, 798 F.2d 818, 823 (5th Cir. 1986) (quoting Parsons v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1334, 1339 (8th Cir. 1984)).

         If the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, they are conclusive and must be affirmed. Martinez, 64 F.3d at 173. In applying the substantial evidence standard, a court must carefully examine the entire record, but may not reweigh the evidence or try the issues de novo. Haywood v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 1463, 1466 (5th Cir. 1989). It may not substitute its own judgment “even if the evidence preponderates against the [Commissioner's] decision, ” because substantial evidence is less than a preponderance. Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988). Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner, and not the courts, to resolve. Spellman v. Shalala, 1 F.3d 357, 360 (5th Cir. 1993).

         b. ...


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