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Crawford v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 24, 2017

MELISSA J. CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. McCARTHY United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, MELISSA J. CRAWFORD, seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying 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 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, 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., 961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).

         Background

         Plaintiff was 32 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 47 on the date of the denial decision. Plaintiff has a high school education and her past work experience includes customer service representative. Plaintiff claims to have become disabled as of January 1, 2001 due to manic depression and bipolar disorder. [R. 128].

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff has severe impairments relating to bipolar disorder. [R. 245]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but is limited to simple repetitive tasks which require no more than superficial contact with supervisors or coworkers, and does not require interaction with the public. [R. 246]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has no past relevant work but found based on the testimony of the vocational expert, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [R. 251, 253]. 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 (10th Cir. 1988) (discussing five steps in detail).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical evidence. [Dkt. 13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13, p. 5].

         Analysis

         Treating Physician's Opinion

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not give proper weight to the opinion of treating psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Rao, M.D. Further, the ALJ failed to perform the required analysis to determine the proper weight to give Dr. Rao's opinion after determining it was not entitled to controlling weight. [Dkt. 13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13');">13, p. 8].

         A treating physician's opinion is accorded controlling weight if it is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record. However, if the opinion is deficient in either of these respects, it is not given controlling weight. When an ALJ decides to disregard a medical report by a claimant's physician, he must set forth specific, legitimate reasons for his decision. An ALJ "may reject a treating physician's opinion outright only on the basis of contradictory medical evidence and not due to his or her own credibility judgments, speculation or lay opinion." Watkins v. Barnhart, 350 F.3d, 1297, 2003 WL 22855009 (10th Cir. 2003). If the ALJ decides that a treating source's opinion is not entitled to controlling weight, he must determine the weight it should be given after considering: (1) the length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination; (2) the nature and extent of the treatment relationship, including the treatment provided and the kind of examination or testing performed; (3) the degree to which the treating source's opinion is supported by objective ...


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