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Sawyer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 2, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          FRANK H. MCCARTHY United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, Jenephier Mischelle Sawyer, seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Social Security disability benefits.[1] 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 record as a whole contains substantial evidence to support the decision and whether the correct legal standards were applied. 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, 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., 933 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., 961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).


         Plaintiff was 45 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 49 on the date of the ALJ's denial decision. She has a General Equivalency Diploma education and formerly worked as a child care provider, receptionist, and data entry clerk. She claims to have been unable to work since July 7, 2010 as a result of back and neck pain, arthritis, hand and shoulder pain, depression, and migraines.

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than the full range of light work. She can occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and 10 pounds frequently. In an 8-hour workday she can stand/walk for 6 hours and can sit for 6 hours with normal breaks. There are some additional postural limitations and no work-related limitations due to her affective disorder. [R. 48]. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert the ALJ found that Plaintiff can return to her past relevant work as a receptionist and data entry clerk and, alternatively, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform with these limitations. The case was thus decided at step four of the five-step evaluative sequence for determining whether a claimant is disabled with an alternative step five finding. 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 erred by: failing to recognize her bilateral carpal tunnel syndrom and shoulder problems as severe impairments; failing to include all of the limitations established by her treating physicians; failing to properly analyze all of her impairments; failing to specify what joints were affected by arthritis, and failing to perform a proper credibility analysis.


         Consideration of Carpal Tunnel Syndrom and Shoulder Pain

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to include hand and shoulder problems in the list of severe impairments at step two of the evaluative sequence. At step two the ALJ must determine whether Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments. That is all that is required of the ALJ at step two. Oldham v. Astrue, 509 F.3d 1254, 1256 (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 two 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); Smith v. Colvin, 821 F.3d 1264, 1266-67 (10th Cir.2016), Mariaz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 857 F.2d 240, 244 (6th Cir. 1987), Brescia v. Astrue, 287 Fed.Appx. 626, 629 (10th Cir. 2008).

         The court finds no error in the ALJ's findings at step two. Plaintiff's argument is more properly directed at the ALJ's findings concerning the ability to do any work, considering all of her impairments. Those issues are dealt ...

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