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West v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 20, 2017

ALZORA MAEBELL WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. MCCARTHY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Alzora Maebell West, 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).

         Background

         Plaintiff was 54 years old on the amended alleged date of onset of disability and 57 on the date of the ALJ's denial decision She has a high school education and formerly worked as a dishwasher and a kitchen helper. She claims to have been unable to work since the amended alleged onset date of September 23, 2011 as a result of degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, obesity, hypertension, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work as defined in the Commissioner's regulations with additional limitations. Plaintiff is able to complete simple instructions, is able to relate to co-workers and supervisors for work purposes only, but is unable to relate to the general public.

         Although Plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work, based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that 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 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 erred by disregarding a portion of the opinion of the consultative examiner and by failing to include limitations related to perform the lifting, bending, stooping, and standing required of medium exertion work.

         Analysis

         Consultative Examiner's Opinion

         Minor Gordon, PhD, performed a mental consultative examination of Plaintiff on July 10, 2014. [R. 480-483]. He completed a Medical Source Statement of Ability to Do Work (Mental). [R. 484-486]. Dr. Gordon also found Plaintiff had a“moderate” limitation in the ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions, and in the ability to make judgments on simple work-related decisions. [R. 485]. The Medical Source Statement form states that “moderate” means: ...


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