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Roberts v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

March 28, 2019




         THIS CAUSE IS BEFORE THE COURT on a Complaint [1] filed by Plaintiff Cathy F. Roberts pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration denying her claim for disability insurance benefits. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker has submitted a Report and Recommendation [20] to the Court which addresses Plaintiff's Memorandum Brief [15] and the Commissioner's Motion to Affirm [17] by the Commissioner of Social Security. The Court has considered the record herein, the documents above described and specifically addresses the Plaintiff's Objections [21] to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.


         On July 25, 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability due to fibromyalgia and chronic back pain. (Administrative Record [11] at 215-18; 235). After the agency denied Plaintiff's claim, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing, and on May 2, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. ([11] at 20-30; 35-53). Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council. On May 26, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. ([11] at 5-8). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review in this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         In her May 2, 2016, decision, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential analysis set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(f)[1] and determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. At step one, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff had worked after her alleged disability onset date-June 28, 2013. The ALJ, however, determined that Plaintiff's work activity since the alleged onset date did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity. ([11] at 22).

         At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and “left shoulder.” The ALJ found that Plaintiff's hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and obesity were not severe. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. ([11] at 22-24).

         The ALJ then examined the record and determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[2] to “perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), [3] with the following exceptions: she is limited to two hours of walking/standing during a normal 8 hour work day with normal breaks, and she should never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds.” ([11] at 25). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a child and family therapist. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. ([11] at 29-30).


         This Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's findings and whether the correct legal standards were applied in evaluating the evidence. Hollis v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1382 (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.” Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir. 1983). To be substantial, the evidence “must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established.” Id. (citations omitted).

         However, “[a] finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate only if no credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the decision.” Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner, not the courts, to resolve. Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990). A court may not re-weigh the evidence, try the issues de novo, or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's, “even if the evidence preponderates against” the Commissioner's decision. Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988). If the decision is supported by substantial evidence, it is conclusive and must be affirmed. Selders, 914 F.2d at 617. Moreover, “‘[p]rocedural perfection in administrative proceedings is not required' as long as ‘the substantial rights of a party have not been affected.'” Audler v. Astrue, 501 F.3d 446, 448 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Mays v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1362, 1364 (5th Cir.1988)).


         The Objections as listed by the Plaintiff are as follows:

         1. The ALJ's analysis of Mrs. Roberts' severe impairments at step two of the five step analysis were ...

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