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Hampton v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 14, 2017

JEFFERSON RONEL HAMPTON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. McCARTHY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, JEFFERSON RONEL HAMPTON, seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Social Security 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 (10');">10th Cir. 2001); Winfrey v. Chater, 10');">1017');">92 F.3d 10');">1017 (10');">10th Cir. 1996); Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 10');">1027');">26 F.3d 10');">1027, 10');">1028 (10');">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, 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 (10');">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., 961 F.2d 1495 (10');">10th Cir. 1992).

         Background

         Plaintiff was 45 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 48 years old on the date of the denial decision. He has a high school education and past work experience includes a pipe fitter. Plaintiff claims to have been unable to work since January 18, 2012[3] due to back pain radiating to his hips, legs and feet; neck pain; hand and wrist pain; right foot pain; and headaches. [R. 138, 160].

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the right foot, and status post rotator cuff repair bilaterally. [R. 25]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work except he has the ability to lift or carry, push or pull twenty pounds occasionally, ten pounds frequently, stand or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit six hours in an eight-hour workday. Plaintiff can occasionally perform overhead reaching, climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl, handle and finger. [R. 26]. The ALJ determined that although Plaintiff cannot return to his past relevant work, based on the testimony of the vocational expert, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [R. 21-22]. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. The case was thus decided at step five of the five-step evaluative sequence for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10');">10th Cir. 1988) (discussing five steps in detail).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts the ALJ: 1) failed to recognize bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and occipital headaches as severe impairments; 2) failed to include all of Plaintiff's limitations in the residual functional capacity (RFC); and 3) made an improper credibility assessment. [Dkt. 10');">10, p. 1-2].

         Analysis

         Step 2 Determination

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred at Step 2 by failing to include carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches as severe impairments. [Dkt. 10');">10, p. 1-3]. At Step 2 of the evaluative sequence, the ALJ must determine whether Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments. That is all that is required of the ALJ at Step 2. Oldham v. Astrue,509 F.3d 1254, 1256 (10');">10th Cir. 2007). Once an ALJ finds that a claimant has at least one severe impairment, a failure to designate others as “severe” at Step 2 does not constitute reversible error because, under the regulations, the agency at later steps “consider[s] the combined effect of all of [the claimant's] impairments without regard to whether any such impairment, if considered separately, would be of sufficient severity.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521, 416.921; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1525(e), 416.945(e); Mariaz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,857 F.2d 240, 244 ...


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