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Willie Earl C. v. Saul

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 26, 2019

WILLIE EARL C., Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew M. Saul, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

         Plaintiff, WILLIE EARL C., seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Social Security disability benefits.[2] In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) & (3), the parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

         Standard of Review

         The role of the court in reviewing the decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to a determination of whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the decision contains a sufficient basis to determine that the Commissioner has applied the correct legal standards. See Briggs ex rel. Briggs v. Massanari, 12');">12');">12');">1235');">248 F.3d 12');">12');">12');">1235, 12');">12');">12');">1237 (10th Cir. 2001); Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017 (10th Cir. 1996); Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 26 F.3d 1027, 1028 (10th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 1420');">91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 993 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Even if the court would have reached a different conclusion, if supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision stands. Hamilton v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 1495');">961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).

         Background

         Plaintiff was 43 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 47 years old on the date of the denial decision. He has a high school education and past relevant work includes an electrician. [R. 21]. Plaintiff claims to have been unable to work since December 20, 2013 due to nerve damage in each arm; big knot on left wrist; screws, steel, and metal in neck and back; high blood pressure, high cholesterol; severe pain; six spurs in back; back fusion six times; degenerative disc disease; and unable to turn neck from side to side. [R. 178].

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease; obesity, carpal tunnel syndrome, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. [R. 19]. The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work in that Plaintiff is able to lift, carry, push or pull up to 5 pounds frequently and 10 pounds occasionally. He is able to sit for up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; able to stand and/or walk up to 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. Plaintiff should have the option to stand for 10 minutes after 30 minutes of sitting without leaving the workstation. The job should not require standing or walking for more than 20 minutes consecutively. Plaintiff should have the option to use a cane to ambulate. Plaintiff is able to occasionally climb ramps or stairs, and occasionally stoop. Plaintiff should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and he should not kneel, crouch, or crawl. Plaintiff is able to frequently reach, handle, or finger. The job should provide regular breaks every 2 hours. [R. 20]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work, however, based on the testimony of the vocational expert, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [R. 26-27]. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. The case was thus decided at step five of the five-step evaluative sequence for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir. 1988) (discussing five steps in detail).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ: 1) failed to properly develop the record; 2) the RFC assessment is erroneous; 3) credibility findings are not supported by substantial evidence; 4) erred in failing to develop vocational expert witness testimony; and 5) the decision in this case was rendered by an Administrative Law Judge whose appointment was invalid at the time she rendered her decision. [Dkt. 12');">12');">12');">12, p. 3].

         Analysis

         Development of the Record Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in failing to incorporate and consider the extensive evidence from the Plaintiff's first two Applications. [Dkt. 12');">12');">12');">12, p. 4]. The ALJ specifically addressed the evidence in the case at the hearing:

ALJ: Do you have any objection to any of the documents marked as exhibits in this case?
ATTY: I have no objection.
ALJ: Do you have any additional evidence to submit either at this time ...

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