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Wetselline v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

July 29, 2019

GORDON WETSELLINE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUZANNE MITCHELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Gordon Wetselline (Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision that he was not "disabled" under the terms of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 423(d)(1)(A). The parties have consented under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge. Docs. 5, 11.[1] After a careful review of the record (AR), the parties' briefs, and the relevant authority, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Administrative determination.

         A. Disability standard.

         The Social Security Act defines "disability" as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). "This twelve-month duration requirement applies to the claimant's inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity, and not just his underlying impairment." Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 218-19 (2002)).

         B. Burden of proof.

         Plaintiff "bears the burden of establishing a disability" and of "ma[king] a prima facie showing that he can no longer engage in his prior work activity." Turner v. Heckler, 754 F.2d 326, 328 (10th Cir. 1985). If Plaintiff makes that prima facie showing, the burden of proof then shifts to the Commissioner to show Plaintiff retains the capacity to perform a different type of work and that such a specific type of job exists in the national economy. Id.

         C. Relevant findings.

         1. Administrative Law Judge's findings.

         The ALJ assigned to Plaintiffs case applied the standard regulatory analysis in order to decide whether Plaintiff was disabled during the relevant timeframe. AR 18-31; see 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4); see also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step process). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff:

(1) had severe degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, status post cervical fusion in September 2017; and hypertension;
(2) did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(3) had the residual functional capacity[2] (RFC) for light work with various additional exertional and nonexertional restrictions;
(4) could not perform his past relevant work;
(5) was unable to perform any past relevant work, but could perform jobs that exist in substantial numbers in the national economy, such as apparel stock checker, motel cleaner, and small parts assembler; and thus
(6) had not been under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act since August 31, 2015, the date the ...

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