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Froehlich v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 12, 2018

ALAN FROEHLICH, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SUZANNE MITCHELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Alan Froehlich (Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (Commissioner) final decision he 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 Vicki Miles-LaGrange 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 he can no longer engage in his 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 in order to decide whether Plaintiff was disabled during the relevant timeframe. AR 30-52; 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 osteoarthritis of the spine, knees, and left ankle; obesity; asthma; post traumatic stress disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; and depressive disorder;
(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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except [Plaintiff] could occasionally lift/carry 20 pounds and frequently lift/carry 10 pounds; stand/walk 6 hours in an 8 hour work day; sit 6 hours in an 8 hour work day; occasionally push/pull including the operation of hand and foot controls; could frequently balance; occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch but never crawl; no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations; Plaintiff could understand, remember, comprehend, and carry out simple work-related tasks and instructions; could work with supervisors and co-workers on a superficial working basis; could not work with the general public; and could adapt to routine changes in the working environment.
(4) did not have any past relevant work;
(5) could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, such as small parts assembler, motel cleaner, and price marker; and, so,
(6) was not disabled.

AR 30-52.

         2. Appeals Council findings.

         The Social Security Administration's Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 5, 2017, so the ALJ's unfavorable decision is the Commissioner's final decision in this case. AR ...


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