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Lynn H. v. Saul

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

November 8, 2019

LAURIE LYNN H., Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew M. Saul, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. MCCARTHY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, LAURIE LYNN H., 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, 248 F.3d 1235, 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, 14');">14');">14');">1420');">91 S.Ct. 14');">14');">14');">1420, 14');">14');">14');">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., 14');">14');">14');">1495');">961 F.2d 14');">14');">14');">1495 (10th Cir. 1992).

         Background

         Plaintiff was 49 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and 51 years old on the date of the denial decision. She has a juris doctorate degree and past relevant work includes a lawyer and security guard. [R. 27]. Plaintiff claims to have been unable to work since March 9, 2015[3] due to lupus, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, bone spurs, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and vision problems. [R. 161].

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: systemic lupus erythematosus, osteoarthritis, and affective disorder. [R. 17]. The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work, specifically, Plaintiff can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sit, stand and/or walk 6 of 8 hours with normal breaks; push and pull is limited to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; limited to simple, routine tasks and occasional contact with the public. [R. 19]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff could not perform her 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. 27-28]. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. The case was thus decided at Step 5 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 the ALJ: 1) erred in finding her not disabled and capable of performing light unskilled work; and 2) failed to properly consider the opinion of consultative examiner, William L. Cooper, Ph.D. [Dkt. 14');">14');">14');">14, p. 2].

         Analysis

         Residual Functional Capacity

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in finding her not disabled and capable of performing light unskilled work. Plaintiff contends that these findings are not supported by substantial evidence. Further, the ALJ seems to particularly rely on non-examining DDS medical opinion in reaching her conclusion. [Dkt. 14');">14');">14');">14, p. 3-4].

         Consultative examiner, Katherine E. Rankin, D.O., examined Plaintiff on May 28, 2015. Plaintiff reported a history of lupus, fibromyalgia, and chronic joint pain, particularly her hands, elbows and neck. She rated her pain 7/10. Dr. Rankin noted neck pain was appreciated with bilateral rotation and mild decreased range of motion of bilateral shoulders. Plaintiff was able to pick up and manipulate paperclips without difficulty, she moved about the examination room easily, and had full range of motion of her spine. Finger to thumb opposition was adequate; straight leg raises were negative bilaterally in seated and supine positions. Toe/heel walk was normal and Plaintiff ambulated with a stable gait at an appropriate speed. [R. 396-97]. Dr. Rankin performed a tender point examination noting Plaintiff had 7of ...


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