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Carr v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 27, 2017

PEGGY ANN CARR, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff, PEGGY ANN CARR, 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, 17');">17');">17');">17');">92 F.3d 1017');">17');">17');">17 (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).


         Plaintiff was 44 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 50 years old on the date of the denial decision. Plaintiff completed 11th grade and attained her General Educational Degree (GED). Past work experience includes psychiatric care aide. Plaintiff claims to have become disabled as of February 14, 2009 due to Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, depression, and neuropathy. [R. 148].

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff has severe impairments relating to diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, obesity, and hypertension. Glaucoma and side effects from medication were non-severe. Fibromyalgia was regarded as medically nondeterminable. [R. 15]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a light work in that she can occasionally lift/carry 20 pounds and frequently lift/carry 10 pounds. In an 8-hour workday, Plaintiff is able to stand, walk, and sit at least 6 hours. [R. 17');">17');">17');">17]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff is unable to perform any 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. 20-21]. 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 opinion evidence. [Dkt. 17');">17');">17');">17, p. 7].


         Kenny A. Paris, Ph.D.

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to explain the weight he accorded to the opinion of psychological consultative examiner, Kenny A. Paris, Ph.D., or evaluate his opinion under the relevant factors. [Dkt. 17');">17');">17');">17, p. 8]. The following factors are ones to be considered in weighing opinions from those who are not defined in the regulations as “acceptable medical sources”: how long the source has known and how frequently the source has seen the individual; consistency of the opinion with other evidence; the degree to which the source presents relevant evidence to support an opinion; how well the opinion is explained; whether the source has a specialty or area of expertise related to the individual's impairment; and any other factors that tend to support or refute the opinion. SSR 06-03p, 2006 WL 2329939 at *4-5. The Ruling instructs that not every factor for weighing an opinion will apply in every case. Rather, the evaluation of an opinion will depend on the particular facts of the case and the case must be adjudicated on its merits based on a consideration of the probative value of the opinions and weighing of all the evidence in the case. Id. at *5.

         On October 13, 2010 Dr. Paris prepared a Mental Status/Diagnostic Examination noting Plaintiff drove herself and arrived on time to the exam, hygiene and dress were appropriate, and her posture and gait were normal. Plaintiff reported she had never been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Although her current pain level was an “8" on a 10-point scale, she only took over-the-counter pain medication. [R. 333-34]. Dr. Paris diagnosed Plaintiff with mood disorder NOS (secondary to medical conditions); anxiety disorder NOS; and R/O social phobia. [R. 335]. Dr. Paris opined Plaintiff had average intellectual functioning; [R. 335], memory skills were slightly below average; and no significant problems with persistence and pace. [R. 336]. Plaintiff's overall cognitive level, ability to think abstractly, ability to function appropriately socially and emotionally, and judgment was estimated to be adequate. Dr. Paris found that ...

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