United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
A. DOUGHTY, JUDGE.
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION
L. HAYES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the court is plaintiff's petition for review of the
Commissioner's denial of social security disability
benefits. The district court referred the matter to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for proposed
findings of fact and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). For the reasons assigned below,
it is recommended that the decision of the Commissioner be
REVERSED and REMANDED for further
& Procedural History
Dickson filed the instant application for Title XVI
Supplemental Security Income payments on June 9, 2015. (Tr.
10, 134-139). She alleged disability as of November 4, 2014,
because of head aneurysm, lung disease, arthritis, COPD,
bipolar, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. (Tr. 150,
154). The state agency denied the claim at the initial stage
of the administrative process. (Tr. 46-54, 57-60).
Thereafter, Dickson requested and received a November 16,
2016, hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 24-45). However, in a July 26,
2017, written decision, the ALJ determined that Dickson was
not disabled under the Social Security Act, finding at step
five of the sequential evaluation process that she was able
to make an adjustment to work that exists in significant
numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 7-20). Dickson appealed
the adverse decision to the Appeals Council. On April 27,
2018, however, the Appeals Council denied Dickson's
request for review; thus the ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).
27, 2018, Dickson sought review before this court. Succinctly
restated, she contends that the ALJ's residual functional
capacity determination are not supported by substantial
evidence. Briefing is complete; the matter is ripe.
court's standard of review is (1) whether substantial
evidence of record supports the ALJ's determination, and
(2) whether the decision comports with relevant legal
standards. Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021
(5th Cir. 1990). Where the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, the findings
therein are conclusive and must be affirmed. Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). The
Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence when the decision is reached by applying improper
legal standards. Singletary v. Bowen, 798 F.2d 818
(5th Cir. 1986). Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. at 401. Substantial evidence lies somewhere between a
scintilla and a preponderance. Muse v. Sullivan, 925
F.2d 785, 789 (5th Cir. 1991). A finding of no substantial
evidence is proper when no credible medical findings or
evidence support the ALJ's determination. Johnson v.
Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir. 1988). The
reviewing court may not reweigh the evidence, try the issues
de novo, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232,
(5th Cir. 1994).
to the Social Security Act (“SSA”), individuals
who contribute to the program throughout their lives are
entitled to payment of insurance benefits if they suffer from
a physical or mental disability. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(a)(1)(D). The SSA defines a disability as the
“inability 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 12 months . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). Based on a claimant's age,
education, and work experience, the SSA utilizes a broad
definition of substantial gainful employment that is not
restricted by a claimant's previous form of work or the
availability of other acceptable forms of work. See
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). Furthermore, a disability may
be based on the combined effect of multiple impairments
which, if considered individually, would not be of the
requisite severity under the SSA. See 20 C.F.R.'
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration has
established a five-step sequential evaluation process that
the agency uses to determine whether a claimant is disabled
under the SSA. See 20 C.F.R. '' 404.1520,
416.920. The steps are as follows,
(1) An individual who is performing substantial gainful
activity will not be found disabled regardless of medical
(2) An individual who does not have a “severe
impairment” of the requisite duration will not be found
(3) An individual whose impairment(s) meets or equals a
listed impairment in [20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1]
will be considered disabled without the consideration of
(4) If an individual's residual functional capacity is
such that he or she can still perform past relevant work,
then a finding of “not disabled” will be made.
(5) If an individual is unable to perform past relevant work,
then other factors including age, education, past work
experience, and residual functional capacity must be
considered to determine whether the individual can make an
adjustment to other work in the economy.
See Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704 -705
(5th Cir. 2001); 20 C.F.R.' 404.1520.
claimant bears the burden of proving a disability under the
first four steps of the analysis; under the fifth step,
however, the Commissioner must show that the claimant is
capable of performing work in the national economy and is
therefore not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 146 n. 5 (1987). When a finding of
“disabled” or “not disabled” may be
made at any step, the process is terminated. Villa v.
Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990). If at any
point during the five-step review the claimant is found to be
disabled or not disabled, that finding is conclusive and
terminates the analysis. Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d
55, 58 (5th Cir. 1987).
Steps One, Two, and Three
determined at step one of the sequential evaluation process
that the claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity during the relevant period. (Tr. 12). At step two,
she found that the claimant suffers from the severe
impairments of cervical degenerative disc disease,
osteoarthritis, peripheral artery disease with intermittent
claudication, major depressive disorder, and anxiety
disorder. (Tr. 12). She concluded, however, that the
impairments were not severe enough to meet or medically equal
any of the impairments listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P,
Regulations No. 4, at step three of the process. (Tr. 12-14).
Residual Functional Capacity
next determined that the claimant retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work,  except that she would be limited to jobs
with simple, repetitive, 1-2-3 step instructions. (Tr.
14-19). She also would be further limited to no direct
interaction with the public and only occasional ...