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Street v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 25, 2019

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



         Plaintiff Richard Street 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, and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, id. §§ 1381-1383f. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R. ”), [1] and the arguments and authorities submitted by the parties. The Commissioner's decision is affirmed. A separate judgment will be entered.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his SSI application on December 22, 2014, and his application for DIB on December 30, 2014, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2012. R. 36, 267-74. The SSA denied his applications initially and on reconsideration. R. 126 79. At Plaintiff's request, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held hearings on August 23, 2016, and December 15, 2016, R. 54-96, 99-112, after which the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 17, 2017. R. 33-35. The SSA Appeals Council found no reason to review the ALJ's decision. R. 1-6. The ALJ's unfavorable decision stands as the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process in determing 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, 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability-onset date. R. 38. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of learning disability, antisocial personality disorder, and anxiety disorder. R. 38.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”). R. 39-41.

         The ALJ next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) during the relevant period, based on all of his medically determinable impairments:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: The claimant can understand, remember and carry out simple tasks; can make judg[]ment on simple work related decisions; can interact with supervisors and co-workers where contact is incidental and occasional to work performed, but is limited to no contact with the general public; can adapt to a work environment that does not involve frequent changes in daily routines or work duties.

R. 41.

         Based on the hearing testimony of the vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff can perform his past relevant work as a roustabout. R. 46. The ALJ also proceeded to make an alternative step-five determination, finding based on the VE's testimony that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy including hospital cleaner, auto detailer, and lot porter. R. 47.

         Thus, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. R. 47; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4); 416.920(a)(4).


         This Court's 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, ” in determining whether the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). Though 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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Assignments of Error

         Though difficult to parse, [2] Plaintiff first contends the ALJ erred in failing “to include functionally distinct limitations in the RFC that were specific to his ability to interact with others” and that this failure “corrupted” the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work. Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. ...

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