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Walls v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 26, 2019

RANDY JOE WALLS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHONT. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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 denying Plaintiff's application for benefits under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter TR.). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this matter by a United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         The parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and the issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Initially and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application for benefits. Following two administrative hearings, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 32-47). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 4-6). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 10, 2014, the application date. (TR. 34). At step two, the ALJ determined that Mr. Walls had the following severe impairments: asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and hypertension. (TR. 34). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 37).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Walls retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to: [P]erform “medium work” as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c), except the claimant must avoid even moderate exposure to dust, fumes, gases, odors, and poor ventilation. (TR. 38) (footnote omitted). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Walls was unable to perform any past relevant work. (TR. 46). As a result, the ALJ proceeded to step five and presented several limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 75-76). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. (TR. 76). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Mr. Walls was not disabled based on his ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 47).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to determin[e] whether the factual findings are 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). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation 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 will “neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201 (10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         IV. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Mr. Walls alleges errors in: (1) the RFC and (2) the ALJ's evaluation of Plaintiff's testimony.

         V. NO ERROR IN THE RFC DETERMINATION

         As stated, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to “[P]erform ‘medium work' as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c), except the claimant must avoid even moderate exposure to dust, fumes, gases, odors, and poor ventilation.” (TR. 38) (footnote omitted). Mr. Walls argues: (1) the RFC failed to accommodate his shortness of breath as opined by two examining physicians; (2) the RFC failed to accommodate his depression as diagnosed by an examining physician; and (3) the ALJ failed to recontact an examining psychologist for clarification of an opinion. (ECF No. 19:8-11). As a result of these cumulative errors, Mr. Walls contends that the RFC lacks substantial evidence. The Court disagrees.

         A. ...


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