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Staggs v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 25, 2017

TERESA STAGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHON T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's applications for benefits under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter TR. ___). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this matter by a United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         The parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and the issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications initially and on reconsideration. Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 12-23). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 26, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. (TR. 14). At step two, the ALJ determined Ms. Staggs had the following severe impairments: peripheral arterial disease; major depressive disorder, severe with psychotic features; and rule out learning disorder, NOS. (TR. 14). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 16-17).

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a telemarketer. (TR. 21). The ALJ further concluded that this job would not require the performance of any work-related abilities precluded by her residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). The claimant could occasionally lift/carry/push/pull 10 pounds and frequently lift/carry/push/pull less than 10 pounds. She can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday and stand/walk 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. The claimant cannot climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds or balance. The claimant can perform simple and some complex tasks with routine supervision; interact appropriately with supervisors and co-workers on a superficial work basis; and adapt to work situations.

(TR. 18).

         Even though the ALJ concluded that Ms. Staggs was capable of performing her past relevant work, she made additional findings at step five. There, the ALJ presented several limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 62). Given the limitations, the VE identified two jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR. 63). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms. Staggs was not disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 22-23).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in the evaluation of evidence from Drs. Fatema Haque and J. Ronald Cruse. In particular, Plaintiff challenges the evaluation of her Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores.

         IV. ...


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