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Godsey v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 24, 2019

GLENN DALE GODSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Glenn Dale Godsey, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration’s denial of his 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. 12], 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 November 27, 2017, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB. AR 12-20. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. Id. 1-6. Accordingly, the ALJ’s 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 Decision

         The ALJ followed the multi-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005) (explaining the multi-step sequential evaluation process); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirement through December 31, 2018 and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 5, 2016, his alleged onset date. AR 14.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and degenerative arthritis. Id. At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff’s impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. at 16.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding Plaintiff could perform a full range of light work. Id. Finally, relying on the vocational expert’s (VE) testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform his past relevant work as a hydro pneumatic tester and is therefore not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 19.

         III. Standard of Review

         Judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision is limited to determining whether substantial evidence supports the factual findings and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). While the Court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable rules of law, it does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (quotations and citations omitted). Additionally, the Court may find an ALJ’s error harmless, if “based on material the ALJ did at least consider (just not properly), [the court] could confidently say that no reasonable administrative factfinder, following the correct analysis, could have resolved the factual matter in any other way[.]” Allen v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1140, 1145 (10th Cir. 2004). The burden to show prejudicial error on appeal rests with Plaintiff. See Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009) (“[T]he burden of showing that an error is harmful normally falls upon the party attacking the agency’s determination.”).

         IV. Claims Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff raises two claims for relief, arguing the ALJ erred in (1) improperly rejecting the opinion of Dr. Seth H. Switzer, M.D., [2] a treating physician and (2) evaluating Plaintiff’s subjective complaints. See Pl.’s Br. at 7.

         V. Analysis

         A. The ALJ’s Treatment of Dr. Switzer’s Opinion

         1.Governin ...


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