United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
CONNIE S. W., Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,  Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
V. HAG AN O UNITKD STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Report and Recommendation (Dkt. # 21)
of the magistrate judge recommending that the Court affirm
the Commissioner's decision to deny plaintiff's claim
for disability benefits. Plaintiff filed an objection (Dkt. #
22) to the report and recommendation, and she asks the Court
to remand the case for further administrative proceedings.
Defendant filed a response (Dkt. # 23) to plaintiff's
January 7, 2015, plaintiff applied for Social Security
disability benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act, alleging a disability onset date of October 3,
2014. Dkt. # 12, at 207. Plaintiff's claim was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Id. at 61, 136, 144.
February 23, 2017, plaintiff appeared at a hearing before the
ALJ and was represented by counsel. Id. at 61-63. At
the hearing, plaintiff testified that she has continual
throbbing back pain, which she described as a sharp and
sometimes sickening feeling. Id. at 77. Plaintiff
explained that she has swelling in her lower back due to
nerve pain, which feels like she is sitting on a rock.
Id. at 78. Plaintiff testified that if she sits or
stands for too long-about 30 minutes-she gets numbness and a
shooting pain down her left leg. Id. at 79-80.
Plaintiff also testified that Curt Coggins, M.D., is her
primary care physician, and that she has been seeing Dr.
Coggins since 2006. Id. at 76. Plaintiff testified
that Dr. Coggins told her that she has a Tarlov cyst on her
sacrum that is causing the pain. Id. at 78.
in the record before the ALJ was a physical residual
functional capacity (RFC) assessment completed by Dr. Coggins
on February 22, 2017. Id. at 537-40. Dr. Coggins
opined that plaintiff could sit for 4 hours, stand for 2
hours, and walk for 1 hour in an 8-hour day; could never
bend, squat, crawl, climb, or reach; and could frequently
carry up to 5 pounds and occasionally carry up to 10 pounds.
Id. at 537-38. Further, Dr. Coggins noted that, even
if plaintiff were allowed to perform a job within those
parameters, she would not be able to perform such work on a
sustained and continuing basis due to her pain levels and
because the medication required to alleviate that pain is too
intrusive. Id. at 538. Dr. Coggins opined that
plaintiff's impairments would cause her to be absent from
work more than three times a month. Id. at 539. As
support for his RFC assessment, Dr. Coggins cited his medical
findings: “Tarlov cyst on sacrum and resulting
neurological pain. Tender to palpations on the cyst and with
reproduction of her pain. MRI supports this with degenerative
[changes] and location of cyst juxtaposing the broad [left]
sacral nerve. Would require lying down periodically during
the short work hours she could sustain.” Id.
17, 2017, the ALJ entered a written decision denying
plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. Id.
at 16-34. The ALJ reviewed Dr. Coggins' opinions in the
RFC, and concluded that there is nothing in Dr. Coggins'
treatment records to support his opinions other than
plaintiff's claims. Id. at 31. Therefore, the
ALJ gave little weight to all of Dr. Coggins' opinions,
finding them to be completely unsupported in the medical
record. Id. at 31-32. With respect to
plaintiff's cyst, the ALJ found that plaintiff's
hearing testimony is not consistent with the findings of Dr.
Coggins: “The claimant testified that Dr. Coggins
supposedly told her that the cyst was a major cause of her
alleged pain. The record shows Dr. Coggins submitted a
disabling medical source statement. However, there is nothing
in it about the effects of the caudal cyst. Additionally, the
treatment records of Dr. Coggins also do not contain any
diagnosis or treatment for the cyst.” Id. at
30 (internal citations omitted).
determined that plaintiff has the RFC to perform sedentary
work with the following additional limitations:
[N]o climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Climbing ramps
or/stairs [sic], stooping, crouching, crawling, kneeling,
balancing, can be done occasionally. No. exposure to
unprotected heights, open flames, dangerous machinery or
equipment, or other hazardous conditions (not all-moving
machinery is dangerous-such as machinery where moving parts
are shielded). Handling and fingering limited to frequent
bilaterally. Due to mental impairments, the claimant can
understand, remember, and carry out simple or intermediate
level instructions, and perform simple and some takes of
intermediate level difficulty under routine supervision, such
that she is capable of doing simple or at most semi-skilled
work. The claimant can relate to supervisors and coworkers on
a superficial work related basis and can adopt [sic] to a
work situation. The claimant can have only occasional contact
with the general public.
Id. at 25. The ALJ found that plaintiff was unable
to perform her past relevant work. Id. at 32. Based
on the testimony of a vocational expert, however, the ALJ
found that plaintiff could perform other sedentary work, such
as clerical mailer, assembler, and stuffer. Id. at
33-34. Further, the ALJ determined these positions existed in
significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at
34. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded plaintiff was not
sought review of the ALJ's adverse decision by the
Appeals Council, but the Appeals Council found no basis under
its rules to review the decision. Id. at 6.
Plaintiff filed this case seeking judicial review of the
denial of her claim for disability benefits, and the matter
was referred to a magistrate judge for a report and
recommendation. The magistrate judge recommends that the
ALJ's decision be affirmed. Dkt. # 21, at 1.
consent of the parties, the Court may refer any pretrial
matter dispositive of a claim to a magistrate judge for a
report and recommendation. However, the parties may object to
the magistrate judge's recommendation within 14 days of
service of the recommendation. Schrader v. Fred A. Ray,
M.D., P.C., 296 F.3d 968, 975 (10th Cir. 2002); Vega
v. Suthers, 195 F.3d 573, 579 (10th Cir. 1999). The
Court “shall make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 ...