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Leonard v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 15, 2017

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



         Plaintiff, Brandon D. Leonard, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of his application for supplemental security income (SSI). United States District Judge Stephen P. Friot has referred the matter for proposed findings and recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B), 636(B)(3); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (AR) [Doc. No. 8], and both parties have briefed their positions.[1] For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         I. Procedural Background

         On July 9, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to SSI. AR 11-21. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 1-3. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision constitutes the Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff timely commenced this action for judicial review.

         II. The ALJ's 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) (explaining process); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The ALJ first determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2013, his amended alleged onset date. AR 13.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: back pain, asthma, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depressive disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and Asperger's syndrome. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 13-15.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding that he could perform less than the full range of light work.[2] Specifically, the ALJ found:

[Plaintiff] can stand or walk for two hours and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. [Plaintiff] can perform no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds, no crouching[, ] no balancing for job tasks, occasional climbing stairs and ramps, kneeling, crawling and stooping. [Plaintiff] requires a climate controlled work environment with no concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts and gases. He can perform simple and some complex tasks with routine supervision, no public contact, and no customer service work. [Plaintiff] is able to interact appropriately with others on a superficial work basis and he is able to adapt to work situations.

Id. at 15-16.

         At step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has no past relevant work. Id. at 19. At step five, relying on a vocational expert's (VE) testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform other work including the jobs of document scanner, product inspector, and address clerk, and that these jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at 19-20. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 20.

         III. Claims Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's RFC assessment regarding both his physical and mental impairments. Regarding the physical impairments, Plaintiff alleges that the RFC is “unsupported by any medical evidence.” Pl.'s Br. at 2. For the mental impairments, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ: (1) failed to incorporate all the consultative examiner's findings on functional limitations; (2) relied on stale State agency opinions; (3) failed to include any functional limitations for Plaintiff's ADHD, depressive disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and Asperger's syndrome; and (4) failed to include functional limitations due to Plaintiff's “math disorder, ” which is significant because the jobs the VE identified all require math skills. See Id. at 4-8. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds no grounds for reversal.

         IV. Standard of Review

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). A decision is not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of evidence supporting it. See Branum v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d 1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004). While the Court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in disability cases, it does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (quotations and citations omitted).

         V. ...

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