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Spoon v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

February 28, 2019

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



         Plaintiff, Samuel Spoon, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). This matter has been referred by United States District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti for proposed findings and recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B), 636(b)(3). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (AR) [Doc. No. 13], and both parties have briefed their respective positions.[1] For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         I. Procedural Background

         On July 21, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI. See AR 15. The Social Security Administration denied the applications initially and on reconsideration. AR 77-78, 121-122. Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision dated June 16, 2017. AR 16-36. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR 1-6. 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 this final agency decision.

         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 15, 2014, the alleged onset date. AR 17.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: diabetes; diabetic retinopathy; arthropathies; blindness in the right eye with secondary glaucoma; and presbyopia in the left eye AR 17-18.[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 18-19.

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

[Plaintiff] had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except he is limited to no visual fields on the right. Additionally, he is limited to no more than frequent visual fields and near and far acuity on the left. [Plaintiff] must avoid all hazards.

AR 20-24. The ALJ then found Plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work. AR 24-25. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ found there were other jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform-dining room attendant, linen room attendant, and cart attendant. AR 25-26. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 26.

         III. Standard of Review

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). A decision is not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of evidence supporting it. Branum v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d 1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004). The court “meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). While the court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (quotations and citations omitted).

         IV. Claim Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred in analyzing limitations related to the vision in his left eye, in the analysis of his symptoms, and in the Step Five analysis. The Court finds Plaintiff's allegations are without merit.

         V. Analysis

         A. The RFC Related to Plaintiff's Left Eye Vision is ...

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