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Mosley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

February 13, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34. The Commissioner has answered the Complaint and filed the administrative record (hereinafter “AR”), and the parties have briefed the issues. The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). For the following reasons, it is recommended the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         I. Administrative History and Agency Decision

         Plaintiff applied for disability benefits on November 24, 2015. AR 168-69. Plaintiff alleged she became disabled beginning on June 10, 2014, due to major depressive disorder with recurring episodes. AR 168, 195. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application on January 26, 2016, see Id. at 42, 43-52, and on reconsideration on August 23, 2016. AR 53, 54-65.

         Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative hearing conducted on April 25, 2017, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR 27-39. A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the hearing. AR 33-36. On July 12, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. AR 15-22.

         Following the agency's well-established sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found at the first step that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 10, 2014. AR 17. At the second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff had a severe impairment of affective disorder. Id.

         At the third step, the ALJ found these impairments were not per se disabling as Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the requirements of a listed impairment. Id. At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following nonexertional limitations: Plaintiff can only perform simple and some complex tasks with routine supervision, can relate to supervisors and peers on a superficial work basis only, and cannot interact with the public. AR 19. The ALJ also found Plaintiff can adapt to a work situation. Id.

         Relying on the VE's testimony as to the ability of a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's work history, age, education, and determined RFC, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could perform jobs of janitor, dishwasher, and floor waxer, each of which exist in significant numbers in the national economy. AR 21-22. Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from November 23, 2015 through the date of the decision. AR 22.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, and therefore the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009).

         II. Plaintiff's Argument

         On appeal, Plaintiff raises two issues. Doc. No. 18 (“Pl's Br.”). In her first issue, Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Patrick Horn. Id. at 8-11. Second, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ failed to properly evaluate her subjective assessments or reports regarding the severity of her symptoms and resulting limitations. Id. at 12-15.

         III. General Legal Standards Guiding Judicial Review

         The Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision is 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); Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotations omitted). The “determination of whether the ALJ's ruling is supported by substantial evidence must be based upon the record taken as a whole. Consequently, [the Court must] remain mindful that evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (citations, quotations, and brackets omitted).

         The Social Security Act authorizes payment of benefits to an individual with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. A disability is an “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); accord 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1509, 416.909 (duration requirement). Both ...

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