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Van Horn v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

January 24, 2018

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



         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 disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income 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.


         Initially and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 16-26). 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.


         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. §§ 404.920, 416.1520. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 20, 2012, the alleged onset date. (TR. 18). At step two, the ALJ determined Ms. Van Horn had the following severe impairments: major depressive disorder; bipolar disorder; anxiety; remote history of cocaine use/sustained remission; and ventral hernia, reducible. (TR. 18). 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. 21).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Van Horn retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the individual can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. The individual can occasionally climb ramps or stairs but should avoid climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The individual can perform simple and routine tasks consistent with unskilled work involving no interact [sic] with the general public and no more than occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors. The individual would do better working with things and data than people.

(TR. 22). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (TR. 24). As a result, the ALJ 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. 60-62). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. (TR. 61-62). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms. Van Horn was not disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 26).


         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in her consideration of: (1) an opinion from a consultative examining physician, (2) a ventral hernia, and (3) panic attacks.


         This Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to determin[e] whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct legal standards were applied.” Wilson v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted).

         While the court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court will “neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201 (10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         Ms. Van Horn alleges that the ALJ erred in her consideration of the opinion from consultative examining psychologist, Dr. Stephanie Crall. (ECF No. 17:2-5). According to Plaintiff: (1) Dr. Crall's opinion regarding Plaintiff's likely inability to work interfered with the ALJ's ultimate finding that Ms. Van Horn could work, and (2) the ALJ failed to explain why he had discounted the opinion and what weight he had accorded the opinion. (ECF No. 17:2-5). The Court disagrees.

         A. Dr. ...

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