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Gaines v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 4, 2019

VATENYCA O. GAINES, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Vatenyca O. Gaines, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) denial of her application for 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. 16], 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 December 28, 2017, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB. AR 15-21. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 1-8. 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 five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Following this process, the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 10, 2014, her alleged onset date. AR 17.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, status post 1999 fusion; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post discectomy at ¶ 4-5; degenerative joint disease of the right knee, status post total knee replacement; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; Hallus rigidus, plantar fasciitis of the left foot, status post arthosurface implant arthroplasty, left first metatarsophalangeal joint. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 18.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding that Plaintiff could perform sedentary work with the following additional limitations:

She can lift/carry 10 pounds frequently and occasionally. She can sit six hours during an eight-hour day. She can stand/walk two hours during an eight-hour day, but she needs to avoid uneven walking surfaces. She can frequently climb ramps and stairs. She can occasionally kneel and crouch. She cannot crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can frequently grip, handle, finger, and feel.

Id. at 18-19; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) (defining sedentary work).

         At step four, relying on a vocational expert's (VE) testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as an insurance customer service representative. AR 21. Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id.

         III. Claims Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in: (1) assessing her obesity and her shoulder impairment; (2) evaluating her subjective symptoms; and (3) evaluating medical evidence. Pl.'s Br. [Doc. No. 25] at 9-18, 18-25, 25-27. As explained below, the Court finds no grounds for reversal.

         IV. Stand ...


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