United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
BARBRA E. HUDSON PLAINTIFF
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. GARGIULO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the claimant Barbra E. Hudson
seeks judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration denying her claim for
Social Security Disability Benefits. The Commissioner found
that Hudson was not disabled, as defined by the Social
Security Act, despite her severe impairment of lumbar
degenerative disc disease. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
determined that Hudson could return to her previous work.
Having considered the submissions of the parties and
applicable law, the Court concludes that the Defendant's
Motion for an Order Affirming the Commissioner's Decision
(ECF No. 16) should be denied and the case remanded.
was 59 years old at the time of the hearing before the ALJ,
and she has a GED. She filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB)
on August 28, 2014, with an alleged onset date of April 23,
2013. Hudson's last date insured for purposes of the
Title II application was December 31, 2015. ECF No. 7 at 18.
Hudson's claim was initially denied on October 31, 2014,
and upon reconsideration on November 25, 2014. Id.
at 78-92. Hudson filed her request for a hearing before an
ALJ on December 29, 2014. The ALJ heard Hudson's case on
February 6, 2017. The ALJ heard testimony from Hudson as well
as from a vocational expert (VE). The ALJ issued a decision
unfavorable to Hudson on February 14, 2017. Id. at
The ALJ's Findings
determining disability, the Commissioner, through the ALJ,
works through a five-step sequential evaluation process.
See 20 C.F.R § 404.1520. The burden of proving
disability rests upon the claimant throughout the first four
steps of this process, and if the claimant is successful in
sustaining her burden at each of the first four steps, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Muse v.
Sullivan, 925 F.2d 785, 789 (5th Cir. 1991). First, the
claimant must prove she is not currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
Second, the claimant must prove her impairment is
“severe” in that it “significantly limits
[her] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities
. . . .” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At step three,
the ALJ must conclude the claimant is disabled if she proves
that her impairments meet or are medically equivalent to one
of the impairments listed in Appendix 1 of Subpart P to 20
C.F.R. pt. 404. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). Accordingly, if
a claimant's impairment meets the requisite criteria,
that claimant's impairments are of such severity that
they would prevent any person from performing substantial
gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525.
the claimant bears the burden of proving she is incapable of
meeting the physical and/or mental demands of her past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). If the claimant
is successful at all four of the preceding steps, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner at step five to prove, considering
the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), age,
education, and past work experience, that she is capable of
performing other work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)(1). If
the Commissioner proves other work that the claimant can
perform exists (in significant numbers in the national
economy), the claimant is given the chance to prove that she
cannot, in fact, perform that work. Muse, 925 F.2d
instant case, the ALJ found at step one that Hudson had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 23, 2013,
the alleged onset date. ECF No. 7 at 21. At step two, the ALJ
found that Hudson had a severe impairment of lumbar
degenerative disc disease. Id. At step three, the
ALJ determine that Hudson did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 to
Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Part 404. Id. Next, the ALJ
determined that Hudson retained the RFC to perform the full
range of light work. Id. At step four, the ALJ
concluded that Hudson could return to her past relevant work
as a waitress. Id. at 24.
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council on April 17, 2017. The Appeals Council denied
Hudson's request for review on April 21, 2018, thereby
rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Id. at 5-9. Having exhausted her
administrative remedies, Hudson commenced the present action
by Complaint filed on June 14, 2018. ECF No. 1.
Standard of Review
of the Commissioner's decision is limited to an inquiry
into whether there is substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's findings and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Falco v. Shalala, 27 F.3d 160, 162 (5th Cir. 1994);
Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir.
1990). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Perales, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consolidated
Edison v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).
Fifth Circuit has further held that substantial evidence
“must do more than create a suspicion of the existence
of the fact to be established, but ‘no substantial
evidence' will be found only where there is a
‘conspicuous absence of credible choices' or
‘no contrary medical evidence.'” Harrell
v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988) (quoting
Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir.
1983)). Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner to
decide, and if substantial evidence is found to support the
decision, the decision must be affirmed even if there is
evidence on the other side. Selders v. Sullivan, 914
F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990). The Court may not reweigh the
evidence, try the case de novo, or substitute its
own judgment for that of the Commissioner, even if it finds
that the evidence “preponderates” against the
Commissioner's decision. Bowling v. Shalala, 36
F.3d 431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Harrell, 862
F.2d at 475).