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Hausher v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

February 6, 2018

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



         Plaintiff, Micheale Hausher, seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Social Security disability benefits.[1] In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) & (3), the parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

         Standard of Review

         The role of the court in reviewing the decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to a determination of whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to support the decision and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Briggs ex rel. Briggs v. Massanari, 248 F.3d 1235, 1237 (10th Cir. 2001); Winfrey v. Chater, 17');">92 F.3d 1017 (10th Cir. 1996); Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 26 F.3d 1027, 1028 (10th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Even if the court would have reached a different conclusion, if supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision stands. Hamilton v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).


         Plaintiff was 34 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 37 on the date of the ALJ's decision. She has a high school education and formerly worked as a general office clerk, commercial cleaner, and production assembler. She claims to have been unable to work since August 2, 2012, as a result of fibromyalgia, clotting problems known as Factor V Leiden deficiency, history of deep vein thrombosis, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, history of cerebral artery surgery and cervical spine arteriovenous malformation surgery, hand and arm tingling, history of right ankle sprain, depression, anxiety, and a panic disorder with agoraphobia. In addition, beginning on May 1, 2014, Plaintiff had inflammatory polyarthritis and osteoarthritis of the hands and feet.

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that beginning May 1, 2014, the severity of Plaintiff's impairments met the criteria of Listing of Impairments §§ 14.09(D)(1) and (D)(3), 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, and was therefore disabled as of that date. [Dkt. 29].

         For the time period prior to May 1, 2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.15');">1567(a), 416.967(a), except Plaintiff had to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, including no driving as a part of work. She was capable of performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks in an environment where interpersonal contact with co-workers and supervisors was incidental to the work performed and where there was no contact with the general public. Supervision required was to be simple, direct, and concrete. [R. 21].

         Although Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work, based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform with these limitations. Thus, for the period from August 2, 2012 to April 30, 2014, the case was decided at step five of the five-step evaluative sequence for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir. 1988) (discussing five steps in detail).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts that the residual functional capacity assessment[2] for the period prior to May 1, 2014 is not supported by substantial evidence.


         Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ's RFC finding “fails to include medically documented limitations that required two (2) surgeries and objectively documented persistent headaches and swelling, numbness, and tingling of the Claimant's extremities.” [Dkt. 15');">15, p. 7]. The Commissioner's brief points out that the ALJ accurately and thoroughly outlined the medical record, thus demonstrating that the ALJ considered the entire record. The Commissioner also points out that in her opening brief Plaintiff selected a few pieces of evidence from the record and argued that the evidence supports “additional, unspecified RFC limitations.” [Dkt. 17, p. 6]. In her reply brief Plaintiff clarified that the focus of her appeal was on the ALJ's treatment of her complaints of numbness and tingling ...

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