United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MICHAEL B. NORTH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Local Rule 73.2(B), this matter
comes before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment following a decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits based upon disability. (Rec.
docs. 16, 17).
Jarrell, Plaintiff herein, filed the subject applications for
DIB and SSI benefits in June of 2014, alleging disability as
of January 14, 2014. (Tr. pp. 117-123). In a
“Disability Report - Adult” form that appears in
the administrative record below, the condition limiting
Plaintiff's ability to work was identified as neuropathy.
(Tr. p. 158). Plaintiff's applications for Social
Security benefits were denied at the initial level of the
Commissioner's administrative review process on April 9,
2015. (Tr. pp. 54-60, 61-67, 68, 69, 73-77). Pursuant to
Plaintiff's request, a hearing de novo before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) went forward on
July 12, 2016 at which Plaintiff, who was represented by
counsel, and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) appeared
and testified. (Tr. pp. 82-83, 84-86, 26-53). On August 18,
2016, the ALJ issued a written decision in which she
concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. (Tr. pp. 8-25). The Appeals
Council (“AC”) subsequently denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
on April 7, 2017, thus making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. pp. 1-4). It is from
that unfavorable decision that the Plaintiff seeks judicial
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§405(g) and
cross-motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff frames the
issues for judicial review as follows:
I. THE COMMISSIONER DID NOT APPLY THE CORRECT LEGAL STANDARD
WHEN ASSESSING PLAINTIFF'S RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY
AND THAT FINDING IS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.
II. THE COMMISSIONER ERRED BY FAILING TO APPLY THE PROPER
LEGAL STANDARD TO DETERMINE PLAINTIFF'S CREDIBILITY
REGARDING PAIN AND OTHER SYMPTOMS.
(Rec. doc. 16-2, p. 5).
to the issues to be decided by the Court are the following
findings that were made by the ALJ:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 14, 2014, the alleged onset (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
peripheral neuropathy (bilateral lower extremities); obesity;
affective disorder (depressive disorder with psychotic
features); and anxiety-related disorder (history of
post-traumatic stress disorder)(20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except she can occasionally climb ramps or stairs;
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl but
should avoid concentrated exposure to uneven terrain. In
addition, she would be limited to the performance of work
tasks that are simple, routine and repetitive.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on April 17, 1977 and was 36 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from January 14, 2014, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and
review of the Commissioner's decision to deny DIB or SSI
benefits is limited under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to two
inquiries: (1) whether substantial evidence of record
supports the Commissioner's decision and (2) whether the
decision comports with relevant legal standards. Anthony
v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 292 (5th Cir.
1992); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021
(5th Cir. 1990); Fraga v. Bowen, 810 F.2d
1296, 1302 (5th Cir. 1987). If the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence, they are conclusive and must be affirmed. 42 U.S.C.
§405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
91 S.Ct. 1420 (1970). A finding of no substantial evidence is
appropriate only if no credible evidentiary choices or
medical findings exist to support the Commissioner's
decision. Johnson v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44
(5th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Jones v. Heckler, 702 F.2d
616, 620 (5th Cir. 1983). The Court may not reweigh the
evidence or try the issues de novo, nor may it
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Cook v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 391, 392 (5th Cir. 1985).
Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner to
resolve, not the courts. Patton v. Schweiker, 697
F.2d 590, 592 (5th Cir. 1983).
claimant seeking DIB or SSI benefits bears the burden of
proving that she is disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475
(5th Cir. 1988). Disability is defined as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable 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) and
1382c(a)(3)(A). Once the claimant carries her initial burden,
the Commissioner then bears the burden of establishing that
the claimant is capable of performing substantial gainful
activity and is, therefore, not disabled. Harrell,
862 F.2d at 475. In making this determination, the
Commissioner uses the five-step sequential analysis set forth
in 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520 and 416.920, as follows:
1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial
gainful activity will not be found to be disabled regardless
of the medical findings;
2. An individual who does not have a “severe
impairment” will not be found to be disabled;
3. An individual who meets or equals a listed impairment in
Appendix 1 of the Regulations will be considered disabled
without consideration of vocational factors;
4. If an individual is capable of performing the work that
she has done in the past, a finding of “not
disabled” must be made; and,
5. If an individual's impairment precludes her from
performing her past work, other factors, including age,
education, past work experience, and residual functional
capacity, must be considered to determine if other work can
first four steps of the analysis, the claimant bears the
initial burden of proving that she is disabled and must
ultimately demonstrate that she is unable to perform the work
that she has done in the past. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n. 5, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294 n. 5 (1987). If the
analysis reaches the fifth step, the ALJ may establish that
other work is available that the claimant can perform by
relying on expert vocational testimony or other similar
evidence to establish that such jobs exist. Fraga,
810 F.2d at 1304 (citing Lawler v. Heckler, 761 F.2d
195, 198 (5th Cir. 1985)). Once the Commissioner demonstrates
that the ...