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D.A.C. XXX-XX-3524 v. U.S. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 5, 2019

D.A.C. XXX-XX-3524
v.
US COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          MARK L. HORNSBY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Introduction

         D.A.C. (“Plaintiff”) was born in 1974, earned a GED, and worked for several years as a truck driver. He stopped working in November 2014 because of health problems, and he applied for disability benefits. ALJ Charlotte Wright held an evidentiary hearing and issued a written decision in which she found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the regulations. The Appeals Council denied a request for review, which made the ALJ's opinion the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff filed this civil action to seek the limited judicial relief that is available under 42 USC § 405(g). The parties filed written consent to have a magistrate judge decide the case, and it was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 USC § 636(c). For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the case is remanded to the agency for further proceedings.

         Summary of the ALJ's Decision

          The ALJ analyzed Plaintiff's claim under the five-step sequential analysis established in the regulations. See Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005). She found at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his November 15, 2014 application date. At step two, she found that Plaintiff had degenerative disc disease and a history of bipolar disorder, which rose to the level of severe impairments. But she did not find that the impairments met or medically equaled a listed impairment at step three.

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except he could only occasionally reach overhead to the left or right. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff was “limited to the performance of simple, routine tasks but not at a production rate pace.”

         A vocational expert (“VE”) offered testimony relevant to steps four and five. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's RFC prevented him from performing his past relevant work as a truck driver or track layer. The VE identified representative occupations warehouse checker, router dispatcher, and power screwdriver operator, which are classified as light work, that a person with Plaintiff's RFC and other factors could perform. The ALJ accepted that testimony and found at step five that Plaintiff was not disabled because he was capable of performing the demands of those jobs.

         Issues on Appeal

         Plaintiff's brief identifies two issues for appeal:

1. The ALJ's RFC determination is not supported by substantial evidence because she did not appropriately analyze the competing opinion evidence.
2. The ALJ erred by failing to specifically consider Plaintiff's strong work history in her credibility assessment.

         Standard of Review; Substantial Evidence

         This court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to two inquiries: (1) whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standard. Perez, 415 F.3d at 461. “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and less than a preponderance.” Masterson v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 272 (5th Cir. 2002). It is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994). A finding of no substantial evidence is ...


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