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Johnson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 8, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          FRANK H. McCARTHY 'United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, Amanda Michelle Johnson, seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying disability benefits.[2] In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) & (3), the parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

         Standard of Review

         The role of the court in reviewing the decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to a determination of whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the decision contains a sufficient basis to determine that the Commissioner has applied the correct legal standards. See Briggs ex rel. Briggs v. Massanari, 248 F.3d 1235, 1237 (10th Cir. 2001); Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017 (10th Cir. 1996); Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 26 F.3d 1027, 1028 (10th Cir. 1994). 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. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 1420');">91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 993 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Even if the court would have reached a different conclusion, if supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision stands. Hamilton v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 1495');">961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).


         Plaintiff was 26 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 31 on the date of the denial decision. Plaintiff has a high school education and past work experience includes restaurant hostess, clerical office manager, insurance clerk, cashier, and a schedule clerk. Plaintiff claims to have become disabled as of February 1, 2009[3] due to fibromyalgia, hypertension, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, body tremors, head shakes, body sways, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), restless leg syndrome (RLS), and headaches. [R. 181].

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff has severe impairments relating to fibromyalgia. The ALJ also found that despite Plaintiff experiencing some headaches and a one time diagnosis of “body tremors, ” there is no neurological or objective medical evidence that determines these impairments will persist for more than twelve months or a life time. [R. 24]. The ALJ determined that carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, affective disorder, and anxiety related disorder were non-severe impairments. [R. 25].

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a). Plaintiff can occasionally climb stairs, occasionally crouch or crawl, and should never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolding. [R. 27]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff is capable of performing past relevant work as an insurance clerk and a schedule clerk given her residual functional capacity. [R. 31]. The ALJ, therefore, found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. [R. 20]. The case was thus decided at step 4 of the five-step evaluative sequence for determining whether Plaintiff is disabled. See Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir. 1988)(discussing five steps in detail).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ: 1) failed to properly weigh the medical opinion evidence and properly determine the residual functional capacity; and 2) failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility.


         Medical Source Opinions Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Sara L. Newell, M.D. [Dkt. 14, p. 8].

         Dr. Newell, a board certified rheumatologist, treated Plaintiff from October 2009, through February 2014. Dr. Newell completed a Fibromyalgia Tender Point Diagram finding Plaintiff had 18/18 positive trigger points. [R. 290]. She diagnosed Plaintiff with undifferentiated connective tissue disorder with positive ANA, positive SSA antibody, arthralgias, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. [R. 327, 1231]. In August 2013, Dr. Newell opined that Plaintiff had been unable to work since October 6, 2009 and would not be able to do so for twelve months or longer. [R. 1161]. On September 30, 2013, Dr. Newell completed a Multiple Impairment Questionnaire opining that during an 8-hour work day, Plaintiff could stand/walk 1 to 2 hours; sit 3 to 4 hours; must get up and move every 15 to 20 minutes; could occasionally lift/carry 10 pounds; had significant limitations doing repetitive reaching (including overhead), handling, fingering; moderate limitations in grasping, turning, or twisting objects, or using fingers/hands for fine manipulations. Further, Plaintiff would need to take unscheduled breaks to rest every 1 to 2 hours, and would likely be absent from work more than 3 times a month because of her impairments. [R. 1162-67]. Dr. Newell also found Plaintiff's anxiety and ...

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