United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court is a Report and Recommendation (“the
Report”) issued by Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby,
upholding the denial of Plaintiff's claim for
Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”)
under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. § 423. Rec. Doc. 14.
Plaintiff timely filed timely objections to the Report and
requests that this Court consider her case. Rec. Doc. 15-1.
For the reasons outlined below, IT IS ORDERED that the
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Rec. Doc.
14) is ADOPTED, overruling objections to the same (Rec. Doc.
15), and dismissing instant claims.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Shaffett (“Plaintiff”) filed for SSI Benefits on
July 1, 2011, alleging a disability that began on October 10,
2009. Rec. Doc. 11-3 at 16. Plaintiff is a
forty-three-year-old, 5'8” female with a high
school education, who has past relevant work as a resident
service specialist. Rec. Doc. 14 at 1. In her brief to this
Court, Plaintiff claimed that she suffers from degenerative
disc disease with radiculopathy in the cervical and lumbar
spine, knee arthritis, interstitial cystitis, obesity,
depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, diabetes mellitus,
sleep apnea, migraines, hypertension, and congenital heart
disease. Rec. Doc. 12 at 1-2.
claim was initially denied on October 24, 2011 by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). Rec. Doc. 14 at 1. Next, the matter was
referred to Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Christopher H. Juge of the SSA, who compiled a residual
functional capacity assessment (“RFC”) and, after
a hearing on May 9, 2012, denied the claim. Rec. Doc. 11-3 at
19-25. Plaintiff appealed the decision and, after a denial
from the Appeals Council, filed a timely complaint with this
Court. Rec. Doc. 1 at 1. The matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Roby to evaluate the claim and submit
proposed findings and recommendations pursuant to Title 28
U.S.C. § 636(b). Rec. Doc. 14. She issued a Report
recommending that this Court affirm the ALJ's decision.
Id. at 15.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINDINGS
Magistrate Judge recommended affirming the ALJ's decision
denying Plaintiff's SSI benefits. Rec. Doc. 14 at 15. She
specifically found that the ALJ's findings of non-severe
interstitial cystitis, and non-disabling ailments, either
singularly or in combination, were supported by substantial
evidence. Rec. Doc. 14 at 7-8. She further observed
substantial evidence of record supported the ALJ's
conclusion that Plaintiff is capable of light work. Rec. Doc.
14 at 15. She also found that the RFC did not need to include
symptoms of interstitial cystitis. Id. at 9-15.
LAW & ANALYSIS
review of any final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security is limited to (1) whether the final decision is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the
Commissioner has applied the proper legal standards when
evaluating the evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Brown
v. Apfel, 192 F.3d 492, 496 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting
McQueen v. Apfel, 168 F.3d 152, 157 n.2 (5th Cir.
1995)). The Court may not reweigh the evidence, try the case
de novo, or substitute its own judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 434
(5th Cir. 1994).
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
findings, then those findings are conclusive and the Court
must affirm them. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 390 (1971). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla and less than a preponderance, and is considered
relevant evidence such that a reasonable mind might accept it
as adequate to support a conclusion. Ripley v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir. 1995)(citing
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
This Court cannot reweigh the evidence unless this Court
fails to find substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's decision. Leggett v. Chater, 67
F.3d 558, 564 (5th Cir. 1995). Nevertheless, this Court must
scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the
reasonableness of the decision reached and whether
substantial evidence exists to support it. Villa v.
Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990);
Johnson v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir.
Court “weigh[s] four elements of proof when determining
whether there is substantial evidence of disability: (1)
objective medical facts; (2) diagnosis and opinions of
treating and examining physicians; (3) the claimant's
subjective evidence of pain and disability; and (4) his age,
education, and work history.” Hendricks v.
Apfel, No. 99-1212, 2000 WL 174884, at *3 (E.D. La. Feb.
14, 2000) (citing Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172,
174 (5th Cir. 1995)). A reviewing court can only find
“no substantial evidence” where there is a
“conspicuous absence of credible choices” or
“no contrary medical evidence.” Johnson,
864 F.2d at 343-44 (citing Hames v. Heckler, 707
F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir. 1983)).
objects that the Commissioner failed to use the proper legal
standard and that his decisions are unsupported by
substantial evidence for the following findings under the
sequential evaluation process: (1) that interstitial cystitis
is not a severe condition, (2) that the RFC need not include
the interstitial cystitis symptoms, and (3) that Plaintiff is
capable of light work. Rec Doc. 15-1.
The ALJ and Magistrate Judge used the correct legal standard
to determine whether Plaintiff's interstitial cystitis is
a severe condition.
step two, the ALJ report lists the following impairments as
severe: “degenerative disc disease of the cervical
spine, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and anxiety.” Rec.
Doc. 11-3 at 18. The ALJ found that these conditions are
severe impairments under both the Stone v. Heckler,
752 F.2d 1099 (5th Cir. 1985), standard and 20 C.F.R.
416.920(c). Id. However, the ALJ report did not
include interstitial cystitis as a severe impairment.
that Plaintiff's interstitial cystitis was a non-severe
condition, the Commissioner weighed the ability of the
condition to improve with treatment with the actual physical
impact on her ability to work. Rec. Doc. 13 at 4-5. This
analysis comports with the Stone v. Heckler standard
that an impairment is not a severe impairment “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.” 752 F.2d at
1099. The Commissioner found that Plaintiff's
interstitial cystitis has minimal effect on her ...