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Naderi v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 25, 2019

SAEED NADERI, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Saeed Naderi 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 applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Upon review of the administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R. ”)[1], and the arguments and authorities submitted by the parties, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his DIB application on January 21, 2015. R. 19, 150-53. In his application, Plaintiff alleged a disability-onset date of June 11, 2013. R. 19, 150. Plaintiff subsequently amended his disability onset date to September 15, 2014. R. 19, 38. Following denial of his application initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on July 25, 2016. R. 35-56, 87-90, 92-94. In addition to Plaintiff, a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. R. 52-55. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 27, 2016. R. 16-30.

         The Commissioner of Social Security uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine entitlement 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 since his amended disability-onset date. R. 21. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the severe, medically determinable impairments of lumbar degenerative disc disease, depression, history of a stroke, and status post hip replacement. R. 21-22. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's condition did not meet or equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 22-23.

         The ALJ next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) based on all his medically determinable impairments. R. 23-28. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to

perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except no more than occasional stooping, kneeling, and crouching, and no exposure to unprotected heights or dangerous machinery. [Plaintiff] is able to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions, but not detailed instructions.

R. 23-24. At step four, the ALJ considered the hearing testimony of the VE and found that Plaintiff was not capable of performing his past relevant work as a forklift truck operator. R. 28-29.

         At step five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in view of his age, education, work experience, and RFC-could perform. R. 29-30. Relying upon the VE's testimony regarding the degree of erosion to the unskilled medium occupational base caused by Plaintiff's additional limitations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform medium, unskilled occupations such as floor waxer, hand packager, and laundry laborer, and that such occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. R. 29-30, 52-55.

         The ALJ therefore determined that Plaintiff had not been disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant period. R. 30. Plaintiff's request for review by the SSA Appeals Council was denied, and the unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the Commissioner's final decision. R. 1-8; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.


         Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether correct legal standards were applied. 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) (internal quotation marks 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) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court “meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, ” including any evidence “that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings, ” “to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). While a reviewing court considers whether the Commissioner followed 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).


         In this action, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider the report of consultative examiner Cynthia Repanshek, ...

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