United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
Lane Wilson United States Magistrate Judge
Juaria Jamelle Raymond seeks judicial review of the decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
denying her claims for disability insurance benefits under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, and
1382c(a)(3). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1)
& (3), the parties have consented to proceed before a
United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. 10). Any appeal of this
decision will be directly to the Tenth Circuit Court of
appeal, plaintiff raises seven points of error. Plaintiff's
first argument addresses step three: that the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by finding that she does
not meet Listing 1.04(A). (Dkt. 14). Plaintiff's next
four allegations of error address how the ALJ handled
plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”): (1) that the ALJ failed to include
limitations for all of her severe impairments in the RFC
findings; (2) that the ALJ “had a duty to develop the
record on the diagnosis of fibromyalgia”; (3) that the
ALJ failed to include “pertinent limitations”
from her treating physicians when formulating her RFC; and
(4) that the ALJ should have found her disabled under a Grid
Rule 201.14 when she turned 50 years old. Id.
Plaintiff's final two arguments address step five errors:
(1) that the vocational expert's testimony is
insufficient, in this case, to qualify as substantial
evidence to support the ALJ's decision; and (2) that the
jobs identified by the vocational expert “do not
conform with the RFC given, ” therefore the
Commissioner's step five burden is unsatisfied.
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
See id. The Court's review is based on the
record, and the Court will “meticulously examine the
record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or
detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.” Id. The
Court may neither re-weigh the evidence nor substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Hackett v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2005). Even if
the Court might have reached a different conclusion, if
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
decision stands. See White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d
903, 908 (10th Cir. 2002).
Three - Listing 1.04(A)
argues that the ALJ erred by finding that she does not meet
the criteria for Listing 1.04(A). (Dkt. 14). The Commissioner
argues that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's step
three finding, because plaintiff did not “meet
all of the specified medical criteria.” (Dkt.
15) (quoting Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530
(1990) (emphasis in original)).
specific contention is that she “meets Listing 1.04(A)
on both the cervical and lumbar spine, ” relying on
records from Don L. Hawkins, M.D., Martin L. Martucci, M.D.,
and consultative examiner Seth Nodine, M.D. (Dkt. 14).
Regarding her cervical spine, plaintiff claims that Dr.
Hawkins “noted disc herniation at ¶ 4-5 and C5-6
with fairly severe foraminal stenosis at both levels, ”
and that he “discusses the additional herniation of the
disc with nerve compression and irritation with a gradual
worsening over the years to the point it is visible on the
MRI.” Id. Regarding her lumbar spine,
plaintiff argues that Dr. Nodine was the “only doctor
to really evaluate [her] back, ” noting an absence of
deep tendon reflexes on the right side, right side positive
straight leg raise testing, and decreased range of motion.
Id. She further claims that “[m]edical records
from her primary care physician indicate[ ] complaints of
numbness and pain in [her] legs.” Id.
Court's practice, in line with that of the Tenth Circuit,
is “to take a lower tribunal at its word when it
declares that it has considered a matter.”
Hackett, 395 F.3d at 1173. The Court finds no reason
to deviate from this practice here. The ALJ thoroughly
discussed plaintiff's medical records throughout the
decision, and clearly explained his reasoning for the weight
afforded to each opinion. (R. 21-30). Specific to this
argument, the ALJ stated that he considered plaintiff's
impairments under Listing sections 1.00, et seq.
(Musculoskeletal System) and 12.00, et seq. (Mental
Disorders), and he concluded that “[d]espite
[plaintiff's] combined impairments, the medical evidence
does not document listing-level severity, and no acceptable
medical source has mentioned findings equivalent in severity
to the criteria of any listed impairment, individually or in
combination.” (R. 24).
requirements of Listing 1.04(A) are:
1.04 Disorders of the spine (e.g., herniated nucleus
pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis,
osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis,
vertebral fracture), resulting in compromise of a nerve root
(including cauda equina) or the spinal cord,
A. Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by
neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of
the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle
weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex
loss and, if there is involvement of the ...