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Haile v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 10, 2019

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



         Plaintiff seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying her application for child's insurance benefits. Defendant has answered the Complaint and filed the administrative record (hereinafter AR__), and the parties have briefed the issues. The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). For the following reasons, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         I. Administrative History and Final Agency Decision

         Plaintiff filed her application for child's insurance benefits on October 23, 2015, alleging disability beginning February 1, 2014. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative hearing conducted on May 12, 2017, before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). AR 32-80. A vocational expert (VE) also testified at the hearing, id. at 74-78, as did one of Plaintiff's counselors. Id. at 6 5 -7 3 . The ALJ issued a decision in which she found Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Id. at 12-28.

         Following the agency's well-established sequential evaluation procedure, the ALJ found at the first step that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. Id. at 15-16. At the second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff had two severe impairments: affective disorder and hyperactivity attention deficit disorder Id. at 16-18. At the third step, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the requirements of a listed impairment. Id. at 18-21.

         At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: work must be limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors, but only superficial[, ] and no interaction with the public; and free of production rate pace.

Id. at 21. The ALJ further found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work.

         Relying on the VE's testimony, the ALJ concluded at step five that Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy including Warehouse Worker, Industrial Cleaner, and Document Specialist. Id. at 27-28. Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from February 1, 2014 through the date of the decision. Id. at 27.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, and therefore the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009).

         II. Issues Raised

         Plaintiff raises four issues. First, Plaintiff contends the ALJ made improper “credibility” findings regarding Plaintiff's mental conditions. Second, Plaintiff states the ALJ erred at step two of the sequential analysis by identifying her mental limitations generally as “affective disorders” rather than specifying each subcategory of affective disorders with which Plaintiff may have been diagnosed. In her third and fourth assignments of error, Plaintiff challenges the weight the ALJ afforded to the opinion of Ginger Rader, LAPC, and contends the ALJ failed to weigh the opinion of Lawrence K. Kaczmarek, M.D.

         III. General Legal Standards Guiding Judicial Review

         The Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision is 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); Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations and quotations omitted). The ‚Äúdetermination of whether the ALJ's ruling is supported by substantial evidence must be based upon the record taken as a whole. Consequently, [the ...

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