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Parker v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 11, 2017

JAMIE PARKER, Plaintiff,



         Jamie Parker (Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Defendant Acting Commissioner's (Commissioner) final decision she was not disabled under the terms of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 423(d)(1)(A). United States District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange referred the matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (b)(3) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Doc. 20.[1] The undersigned carefully reviewed the pleadings, the administrative record (AR), and the parties' briefs, and, for the following reasons, now recommends that Judge Miles-LaGrange affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Administrative determination.

         A. Disability standard.

         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 that 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). “This twelve-month duration requirement applies to the claimant's inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity, and not just his underlying impairment.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 218-19 (2002)).

         B. Burden of proof.

         Plaintiff “bears the burden of establishing a disability” and of “ma[king] a prima facie showing that he can no longer engage in his prior work activity.” Turner v. Heckler, 754 F.2d 326, 328 (10th Cir. 1985). If Plaintiff makes that prima facie showing, the burden of proof then shifts to the Commissioner to show Plaintiff retains the capacity to perform a different type of work and that such a specific type of job exists in the national economy. Id.

         C. Relevant findings.

         The ALJ assigned to Plaintiff's case applied the standard regulatory analysis and concluded Plaintiff had not met her burden of proof. AR 19-26; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); see also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step analysis). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff:

(1) has various physical impairments, including rheumatoid arthritis; left elbow chronic olecranon bursitis, secondary to rheumatoid arthritis; right thumb rheumatoid nodule; and left wrist arthritis, VISI deformity. The claimant also has mild demineralization without fractures or erosions; mild radicarpal joint narrowing; and the claimant's intercarpal joints look stable. There is a central perforation of the triangular fibrocartilage; small DRUJ effusion, as expected; the scapholanate ligament and lunotriquetral ligaments are not well-seen and may be severely degenerated or torn; small subchondral cysts or erosions in the distal radious, carpus, and proxifmal metacarpals as above; non-specific edema within the carpus and proximal metacarpals; mild ECU tenosynovitis; first CMC osteoarhtosis; and diabetes mellitus.

         AR 23 (internal record citations omitted). The ALJ then noted that:

(2) Since at least August 2013, the claimant has been followed by family medicine specialists, a podiatrist, a hand surgeon, a neurologist, and other specialists secondary to the diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis and nodules left elbow resulting in bursitis, VISI arthritic deformity/tenosynovitis of her left wrist, enthesopathy of ankles, right thumb nodules, bilateral hallux valgus (bunions), hallux ridigus with hammertoe joint contracture of 5th toe status-post December 2014/January 2015 surgical corrections, diabetes mellitus, mild obesity, essential hypertension, and hypothyroidism. The claimant also has a history of tubular carcinoma of her right breast diagnosed in January 2014 without metastases status-post April 2014 mastectomy and a history of basal cell carcinoma of her lip diagnosed October 2014 status-post excision.

Id. at 23-24 (internal record citations omitted). The ALJ then found:

(3) “When all of the claimant's impairments are combined, they constitute a “severe” impairment as that term is defined by the Commissioner for the purpose of satisfying step two of the sequential evaluation process (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).”
(4) Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(5) Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC)[2] to ...

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