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Way v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 10, 2018

MERLY WAY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SUZANNE MITCHELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Merly Way (Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security'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 Timothy D. DeGiusti referred this 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. 15. Following a careful review of the parties' briefs, the administrative record (AR), [1] and the relevant authority, the undersigned recommends the court 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 which 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 [she] can no longer engage in [her] 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.

         1. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) findings.

         The ALJ assigned to Plaintiff's case applied the standard regulatory analysis to decide whether Plaintiff was disabled during the relevant timeframe. AR 67-80; see 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a); see also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step process). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff:

(1) had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease and obesity;
(2) had no impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(3) had the residual functional capacity[2] to perform sedentary work, was able to lift, carry, push and/or pull ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently, sit for the total of six hours throughout an eight-hour workday, and stand and/or walk the total of two hours throughout an eight-hour workday, with occasional kneeling, crouching, ...

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