United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
B. WHITEHURST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties consented to have this matter
resolved by the undersigned Magistrate Judge, and it was
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for all
proceedings, including entry of judgment. [Rec. Doc. 12].
Before the Court is an appeal of the Commissioner's
finding of non-disability. Considering the administrative
record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law,
the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
claimant, Jude Leonard Miller, fully exhausted his
administrative remedies before filing this action in federal
court. On September 23, 2014, he filed applications for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”) alleging that he became disabled on June
1, 2014. R. 10, p. 5. His applications were denied.
Tr. p. 17. He requested a hearing, which was held on
August 15, 2016 before Administrative Law Judge Christine
Hilleren. Tr. p. 38. The ALJ decided that the
claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act from June 1, 2014 (the alleged disability onset
date) through October 5, 2016 (the date of the decision).
Claimant requested review of the decision, but the Appeals
Council found no basis for review. Tr. 17.
Therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner for the purpose of the Court's review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Claimant then filed this
action seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
of Pertinent Facts
claimant was born in 1973. At the time of the ALJ's
decision, he was 40 years old. He went to the 10th
grade, has a “limited education, ” Tr. 36.
54-55, and has relevant work experience as a rigger and
crane operator. Id. Claimant alleged that he has
been disabled since June 1, 2014 due to anxiety, intellectual
impairment and alcohol abuse.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's denial of disability
benefits is limited to determining whether substantial
evidence supports the decision and whether the proper legal
standards were used in evaluating the evidence. Villa v.
Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1990).
“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.” Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162,
164 (5th Cir. 1983) Substantial evidence “must do more
than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be
established, but ‘no substantial evidence' will
only be found when there is a ‘conspicuous absence of
credible choices' or ‘no contrary medical
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence, they are conclusive and must be affirmed. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173
(5th Cir. 1995). In reviewing the Commissioner's
findings, a court must carefully examine the entire record,
but refrain from re-weighing the evidence or substituting its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Hollis v.
Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1383 (5th Cir. 1988); Villa v.
Sullivan, 895 F.2d at 1022. Conflicts in the evidence,
Scott v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 482, 485 (5th Cir. 1985),
and credibility assessments, Wren v. Sullivan, 925
F.2d 123, 126 (5th Cir. 1991), are for the Commissioner to
resolve, not the courts. Four elements of proof are weighed
by the courts in determining if substantial evidence supports
the Commissioner's determination: (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 experience. Id.
Entitlement to Benefits
program provides income to individuals who are forced into
involuntary, premature retirement, provided they are both
insured and disabled, regardless of indigence. See
42 U.S.C. § 423(a). If unmarried and between fifty and
sixty years old, the widow of a fully insured individual is
entitled to widow's insurance benefits if she is disabled
and her disability began no more than seven years after the
wage earner's death or seven years after he was last
entitled to survivor's benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 402(e);
20 C.F.R. § 404.335. Every individual who meets certain
income and resource requirements, has filed an application
for benefits, and is determined to be disabled is eligible to
receive Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(1) & (2).
person is disabled “if he is unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). A
claimant is disabled only if his physical or mental
impairment or impairments are so severe that he is unable to
not only do his previous work, but cannot, considering his
age, education, and work experience, participate in any other
kind of substantial gainful work which exists in significant
numbers in the national economy, regardless of whether such
work exists in the area in which the claimant lives, whether
a specific job vacancy exists, or whether the claimant would
be hired if he applied for work. 42 U.S.C. §
Evaluation Process ...