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Roe v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 25, 2019

TIMOTHY J. ROE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Timothy J. Roe brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (Doc. No. 10, hereinafter “R. ”), [1] and the arguments and authorities submitted by the parties and affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, formerly a floor hand in the oil field, was injured on the job on June 26, 2010, when a heavy metal object fell from an oil derrick from a height of approximately 60 feet and hit his right arm. He was immediately hospitalized with an open humerus fracture and cervical nerve-root avulsion. From the beginning, Plaintiff was unable to feel the lower part of his right arm or move his dominant right hand. R. 12, 47, 59, 241, 245.

         Doctors surgically repaired the fracture and performed nerve root transplants during the following months in an effort to restore function to Plaintiff's right arm and hand. The nerve damage to Plaintiff's right brachial plexus was too extensive to be repaired, however, and nineteen months after the accident, there was no evidence of reinnervation. Plaintiff was left unable to move his right arm except to shrug his shoulders. R. 12-14, 292-95, 306, 327.

         Ultimately, doctors amputated Plaintiff's arm above the elbow. R. 14, 315-18. Although he was fitted with a myoelectric prosthetic device and underwent occupational therapy, Plaintiff testified that he is unable to actively use the device and rarely wears it. R. 48, 895, 897, 900-01.

         In his application for DIB, Plaintiff listed seven medical conditions to which he attributed his disability: right-arm amputation, back injury and constant pain, optical nerve eye injury, neck injury and constant pain, right-hip pain, right-knee pain, and headaches. R. 177.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his DIB application on January 6, 2015, alleging a disability-onset date of February 12, 2014. R. 10, 157-60. The SSA denied his application initially and on reconsideration. R. 63-83. At Plaintiff's request, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on June 17, 2016, R. 40-62, after which the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on October 21, 2016. R. 10-26. The Social Security Appeals Counsel affirmed the ALJ's unfavorable decision on August 10, 2017, finding no reason to review the ALJ's decision. R. 1-5. The unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.

         The ALJ followed the prescribed five-step sequential evaluation process in determining Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from February 12, 2014, the alleged disability-onset date, through December 31, 2015, the date Plaintiff was last insured for DIB. R. 12. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following impairments:

status post right grade 2 open humerus fracture with cervical nerve root avulsion injury; status post transfer of right distal accessory nerve to suprascapular nerve; transfer of intercostal nerves 3 through 6 to musculocutaneous nerve; and bank medial antebrachial cutaneous nerve graft to intercostal nerves 7 and 8, after being diagnosed with trauma and right brachial plexus; status post right arm trans-humeral amputation (above the elbow), as well as diagnosis of degenerative disc disease, unsupported by objective laboratory diagnostic findings, which singly and/or in combination are severe.

R. 12.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 21.

         The ALJ next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) based on all his medically determinable impairments. The ALJ found that during the relevant period Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work, [2] except that Plaintiff can never use right hand controls and cannot perform overhead reaching, fine or gross manipulation, or feeling with his right upper extremity. R. 21-24. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff unable ...

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