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Manley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

February 28, 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 a partially favorable decision. (TR. 20-36). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-6). 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. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her amended onset date of May 21, 2010. (TR. 26). At step two, the ALJ determined that Ms. Manley had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the back; obesity; multiple sclerosis; and depressive disorder. (TR. 27). 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. 27). At step four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Manley retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; simple tasks with routine supervision; no public contact; no customer service work; able to interact with supervisors and co-workers on a superficial work basis; able to adapt to work situations.

(TR. 29). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (TR. 34). 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 given her RFC. (TR. 35, 67-70). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 35, 64-70). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled between her amended onset date of May 21, 2010 and August 6, 2013. (TR. 35-36). However, the ALJ then found that as of August 6, 2013, the date that Plaintiff turned 50, Plaintiff was disabled via direct application of Medical-Vocational Rule 201.14. (TR. 36).


         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ and the Appeals Council (AC) failed to adequately evaluate post-hearing evidence submitted by Plaintiff's treating physician. Plaintiff further argues that the ALJ erred in her consideration of Plaintiff's visual limitations and “cherry-picked” the evidence concerning Plaintiff's pain complaints.


         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. ...

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