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Hudson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

July 31, 2018

TINA M. HUDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Tina M. Hudson, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) denial of her applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (AR) [Doc. No. 12], and both parties have briefed their positions.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Procedural Background

         On August 23, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB or SSI. AR 20-36. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 1-5. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision constitutes the Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff timely commenced this action for judicial review.

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 31, 2012, her amended alleged onset date. AR 23.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: “mild degenerative disc disease of the neck and back; left foot disorder, status post surgical repair; major depressive disorder, moderate; generalized anxiety disorder; [and] agoraphobia without panic attacks.” Id. Then, at step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 23-25.

         Relying in relevant part on a medical expert's (ME) testimony, the ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding that she:

[can] perform light work . . . except she can lift, carry, push and pull 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. She can sit for 7 of 8 hours and stand and/or walk for 7 of 8 hours in an 8-hour workday. She can frequently climb stairs, ramps, ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, as well as frequently balance, crawl, and stoop. She can continuously kneel and crouch. She can have frequent exposure to unprotected heights and moving machinery. Further, she can perform simple, repetitive tasks with routine supervision, but should not perform customer service work. She can have occasional public contact and is able to adapt to work situations.

Id. at 25-26.

         At step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff cannot perform her past relevant work, id. at 34, and at step five, found Plaintiff can perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at 35. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 35-36.

         III. Claims Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff alleges that: (1) the ALJ erred in giving the ME's opinion greater weight than the consultative examiner's (CE) opinion without providing specific and legitimate reasons, and, as a result, (2) Plaintiff's RFC is not supported by substantial evidence. See Pl.'s Br. at 9-16.

         IV. Stand ...


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