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Eitel v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 29, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Robert Jason Eitel appeals the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“R&R” or “Report”) [Doc. No. 19] recommending that the Court affirm the Commissioner's final decision which found he was not “disabled” as that term was defined under the Social Security Act [Doc. No. 20]. Defendant has responded to the objection [Doc. No. 21]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.


         The Social Security Act defines “disability” as the “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). Under the Act, a claimant is disabled “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....” Id. § 423(d)(2)(A). Regulations implementing the Act set forth a five-step process for evaluating a disability claim:

Step one requires a claimant to establish she is not engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” Step two requires the claimant to establish she has a “medically severe impairment or combination of impairments.” Step three asks whether any “medically severe impairment, ” alone or in combination with other impairments, is equivalent to any of a number of listed impairments so severe as to preclude “substantial gainful employment.” If listed, the impairment is conclusively presumed disabling. If unlisted, the claimant must establish at step four that her impairment prevents her from performing work she has previously performed. If the claimant is not considered disabled at step three, but has satisfied her burden of establishing a prima facie case of disability under steps one, two, and four, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show the claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform other work in the national economy in view of her age, education, and work experience.

Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal citations omitted). On January 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, alleging he was disabled. The claim proceedings culminated with a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who heard evidence regarding Plaintiff's medical condition. As noted by the Magistrate Judge, the ALJ made the following findings regarding Plaintiff's claims of disability:

(1) Plaintiff was severely impaired, first, by osteoarthritis by history, second, by diabetes mellitus, third, by major depressive disorder, and fourth, by generalized anxiety disorder;
(2) Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(3) Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) for medium work where he, first, was limited to lifting/carrying 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, second, could sit for “about” six hours and standing or walking for “about” six hours in an eight-hour workday, third, must avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, fumes, gases, odors, and poor ventilation, fourth, he can remember, understand, and carry out simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and fifth, he can respond appropriately to supervisors, co-workers, and usual work situations, but he should have only occasional contact with the general public;
(4) Plaintiff had no past relevant work;
(5) Plaintiff was able to perform jobs existing in the national economy; and accordingly,
(6) Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act since January 16, 2013, the date he filed his application for supplemental security income.

R&R at 3-4.

         On appeal, Plaintiff raises three propositions of error: (1) the Magistrate Judge erred in determining that the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) findings with regard to the weight assigned to the opinions of Dr. Shantharam Darbe (Plaintiff's treating physician) were well-reasoned and free from error; (2) the Magistrate Judge erred in determining that the ALJ's findings with regard to Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) were supported by substantial evidence; and (3) the Magistrate Judge's opinion regarding the ALJ's ...

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