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Stansberry v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

August 3, 2018

MICHAEL L. STANSBERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Michael L. Stansberry, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the portion of the Social Security Administration's final decision finding he was not disabled under the Social Security Act. 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. 9], and both parties have briefed their respective positions.[1] For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         I. Procedural Background

         On October 5, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. See AR 16. The Social Security Administration denied the applications initially and on reconsideration. AR 104-105, 130-131. Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a partially favorable decision dated September 23, 2015. AR 12-35. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR 6-9. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner. Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the unfavorable portion of this final agency decision. See Pl.'s Br. 5.

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ followed the sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005) (explaining five-step sequential evaluation process); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 22, 2011, the alleged onset date. AR 19.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had impairments-diabetes mellitus with peripheral neuropathy; toes amputated; ischemic heart disease with stents and bypass; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”); other and unspecified arthropathies; gastrointestinal reflux disease (“GERD”); obesity; hypertension, not otherwise specified; hyperlipidemia; and restless leg syndrome-which, when combined, constituted a severe impairment. AR 19-24.[2] 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, Appendix 1. AR 24-25.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding:

[F]rom July 22, 2011, up until the established onset date of disability of May 12, 2015, [Plaintiff] had the residual functional capacity to perform light exertion work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) restricted as follows: [Plaintiff] could occasionally lift and/or carry (including upward pulling) 20 pounds; [Plaintiff] could frequently lift and/or carry (including upward pulling) 10 pounds; [Plaintiff] could stand and/or walk (with normal breaks) for a total of six hours in an 8-hour workday; [Plaintiff] could sit (with normal breaks) for a total of six hours in an 8-hour workday; [Plaintiff's] ability to push and/or pull (including operation of hand and/or foot controls) was unlimited, other than as shown above for lift and/or carry; [Plaintiff] could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs. [Plaintiff] had no other physical limitations of any kind. [Plaintiff] had no mental limitations of any kind.

         AR 25-31. The ALJ further concluded:

[B]eginning on the established onset date of May 12, 2015, through the present, [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with the following limitations: [Plaintiff] can occasionally lift and/or carry (including upward pulling) 10 pounds; [Plaintiff] can frequently lift and/or carry (including upward pulling) 5 pounds; [Plaintiff] can stand and/or walk (with normal breaks[)] for a total of 2 hours in an 8-hour workday; [Plaintiff] can sit (with normal breaks) for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; [Plaintiff's] ability to push and/or pull (including operation of hand and/or foot controls) is unlimited, other than as shown above for lift and/or carry; [Plaintiff] can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs; [Plaintiff] can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; [Plaintiff] can make judgments that are simple, work-related decisions; [Plaintiff] can respond appropriately to supervisors, co-workers, and usual work situations; and [Plaintiff] can deal with changes in a routine work setting.

AR 31-33. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ determined that from July 22, 2011, up until the established onset date of disability of May 12, 2015, Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a salesperson. AR 33. The ALJ next determined that from May 12, 2015, through the present, Plaintiff was prevented from performing past relevant work. AR 33-34. The ALJ further concluded that beginning on May 12, 2015, there were no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. AR 34. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act before May 12, 2015, but became disabled on that date and remained disabled through the date of the decision. AR 35. Further, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability at any time through December 31, 2012, the date last insured. Id.

         III. Issue Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ improperly ignored evidence and, as a result, improperly found Plaintiff could perform his ...


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