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Gordon v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

August 18, 2017

REBECCA GORDON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S APPEAL

          Gerald B. Cohn United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for decision. Plaintiff Rebecca Gordon (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's decision finding of not disabled. As set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's appeal and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision in this case.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To receive disability or supplemental security benefits under the Social Security Act (“Act”), a claimant bears the burden to demonstrate an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).

         The Act further provides that an individual:

shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). Plaintiff must demonstrate the physical or mental impairment “by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         Social Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750 (10th Cir. 1988) (setting forth the five steps in detail). “If a determination can be made at any of the steps that a plaintiff is or is not disabled, evaluation under a subsequent step is not necessary.” Williams, 844 F.2d at 750. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. See Wells v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1064 at n.1. (10th Cir. 2013). If the claimant satisfies this burden, then the Commissioner must show at step five that jobs exist in the national economy that a person with the claimant's abilities, age, education, and work experience can perform. Id.

         In 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 e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“court shall review only the question of conformity with such regulations and the validity of such regulations”); 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. Substantial evidence “does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). 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 [Administrative Law Judge'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).

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on August 2, 2013, alleging she become disabled as of May 29, 2013, due to obesity, degenerative disc disease L5-S1, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, herniated disk, back injury, incontinence, rotator cuff, bleeding stomach, heal spurs, deafness, cataracts, and emotional stress. (Tr. 17, 44, 146, 157). A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 29, 2015. (Tr. 76-77, 89-116). The ALJ issued a decision on March 20, 2015, finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 12-25). Plaintiff was fifty-six (56) years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 89-116, 146). The Appeals Council denied her request for review by an order dated April 21, 2016, and thus, the ALJ decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6). This appeal followed.

         III. ISSUES AND ANALYSIS

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the following error: The ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) findings do not reflect the step two findings. (See Pl. Br. at 2, Doc. 21).

         A. ALJ's Review of the ...


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