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Meeks v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 8, 2019

JUDITH A. MEEKS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Judith A. Meeks, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) denial of her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB). The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (AR), [Doc. No. 10], and both parties have briefed their positions.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Procedural Background

         On March 23, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB. AR 73-88. The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review and remanded the case back to the same ALJ to correct various errors. Id. at 95-97. The ALJ held a supplemental hearing, and on March 23, 2018, issued a second unfavorable decision. Id. at 11-19. The Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review of the second decision. Id. at 1-5. Accordingly, the ALJ's second decision constitutes the Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff timely commenced this action for judicial review.

         II. The ALJ's Second Decision

         The ALJ followed the multi-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ first determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirement through December 31, 2018 and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 5, 2013, her alleged onset date. AR 13.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from severe spine disorders, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity. Id. Plaintiff's residual shingles, gastritis, left maxillary sinus disease, history of colon cancer, and depression were deemed non-severe. Id. at 14. Then, at step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's serve impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 15.

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

[can] perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except she [can] lift no more than 50 pounds. She [can] sit, stand, and walk not to exceed 6 hours in a work day. She [can] occasionally crouch.

Id.

         Finally, at step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff can perform her past relevant work as a licensed practical nurse “as generally performed, ” and is therefore not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 18.

         III. Claims Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff's overarching allegation is that “the ALJ erred in . . . determining [Plaintiff's] RFC.” Pl.'s Br. at 15. More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ: (1) failed to follow the Appeals Council's remand order to conduct a “function-by-function” RFC assessment; (2) failed to properly consider and/or explain the effects of Plaintiff's “obesity-related limitations;” (3) did not consider Plaintiff's non-severe impairments in assessing her RFC; and, (4) did not clarify the RFC regarding Plaintiff's ability to sit, stand, and walk. Id. at 13-20.

         IV. Stand ...


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