Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Boyle v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

October 2, 2017

TERESA E. BOYLE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Now before the Court is the Report and Recommendation (Dkt. # 20) of Magistrate Judge Frank H. McCarthy recommending that the Court affirm the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny plaintiff Teresa E. Boyle's claim for disability benefits. Plaintiff has filed an objection to the report and recommendation (Dkt. # 21), and she argues that the case should be reversed and remanded to allow the administrative law judge (ALJ) to resolve conflicting or ambiguous findings by two psychologists.


         On March 7, 2014, plaintiff applied for disability benefits, claiming that she was unable to work due to a back injury, anxiety, and depression. Dkt. # 14-5, at 2. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Dkt. # 14-4, at 7-8; id. at 17-18. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, and a hearing was set for July 8, 2015. Id. at 36. Plaintiff appeared at the hearing and she was represented by counsel.

         The ALJ issued a written decision denying plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. Id. at 159-174. Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since November 29, 2012, and she had the severe impairments of stage III kidney disease, lumbago, obesity, hearing deficit, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and general anxiety disorder. Id. at 162. However, none of these impairments or combination of impairments met or equaled the severity of a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P. Id. at 163. The ALJ found that plaintiff had moderate difficulties with activities of daily living, social functioning, and with regard to concentration, persistence, or pace, but plaintiff did not have at least two “marked” limitations as required for the “paragraph B” or “paragraph C” criteria. Id. at 164. The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with certain restrictions. Id. at 165.

         Relevant to plaintiff's objection, the ALJ found that the following limitations were appropriate as to plaintiff's mental impairments:

Due to severe mental impairments, the claimant is limited to unskilled work consisting of simple and routine tasks with routine supervision that require only that she be able to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions, and with only occasional contact with coworkers and no contact with the general public. Routine is defined here as jobs where changes in daily work activities would occur infrequently, and where workers would be given time to adjust commensurate with the requirements of simple unskilled work.

Id. at 165. The administrative record contains evidence that plaintiff underwent psychological consultative evaluations on May 25, 2011 and May 1, 2014. Plaintiff was examined by Johna Smasal, Ph. D., on May 25, 2011, who reported that plaintiff had “would likely have difficulty concentrating, learning new skills, socially interacting, and recalling information.” Dkt. # 14-7, at 57. The ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Smasal's opinion, because the term “difficult” is ambiguous in terms of vocational restrictions and Dr. Smasal's opinion is inconsistent with the evidence as a whole. Dkt. # 14-2, at 167. Nancy Barton, Ph. D., examined plaintiff on May 1, 2014, and stated that:

Based on my limited time with Ms. Tiffey[1] it is likely she is able to perform some work-related mental activities, such as ability to understand and socially interact. However, she may experience difficulty with remembering, concentration, persisting with difficult tasks, socially interacting and adapting to the demands of a work environment.

Dkt. # 14-7, at 252. The ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Barton's opinion because it is inconsistent with other aspects of Dr. Barton's mental health evaluation and is vague as to work-related restrictions. Dkt. # 14-2, at 168. The ALJ construed the term “difficult” as used by Dr. Smasal and Dr. Barton to correlate with “moderate” limitations, and he found that plaintiff could perform routine work on a sustained basis. Id. at 169.

         The ALJ determined that plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work, but he found that plaintiff was not disabled because there were jobs in sufficient numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform with her RFC. Id. at 173. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. Id. at 2. Plaintiff filed this case seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. The matter was referred to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation. Plaintiff filed an opening brief arguing that the ALJ failed to fully develop the record as to plaintiff's mental health impairments and that the ALJ failed to consider the effect of anxiety on plaintiff's ability to perform sustained work.[2] Dkt. # 16. The magistrate judge considered both of plaintiff's arguments and stated that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence, and he recommends that the Commissioner's decision to deny plaintiff's claim for disability benefits be affirmed. Dkt. # 20.


         Without consent of the parties, the Court may refer any pretrial matter dispositive of a claim to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation. However, the parties may object to the magistrate judge's recommendation within 14 days of service of the recommendation. Schrader v. Fred A. Ray, M.D., P.C., 296 F.3d 968, 975 (10th Cir. 2002); Vega v. Suthers, 195 F.3d 573, 579 (10th Cir. 1999). The Court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.