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Tapia v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 6, 2019

LAURA TAPIA, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff, Laura Tapia, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of her applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). United States District Judge Charles Goodwin has referred the matter for proposed findings and recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B), 636(B)(3); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (AR) [Doc. No. 11], and both parties have briefed their positions.[1] For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         I. Procedural Background

         On August 28, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB or SSI. AR 16-32. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 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 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, 416.920. Following this process, the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 3, 2015, her alleged onset date. AR 19.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of cervical and lumbar spine; knee impairment, status post July 2016 left knee arthroscopy; shoulder tendonitis and bursitis; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; hypothyroidism; morbid obesity; major depressive disorder, recurrent, moderate; and borderline level of intellectual functioning. 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 20.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding that Plaintiff could perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), with the following additional limitations:

[Plaintiff] requires a sit/stand option, in that [Plaintiff] can sit for about 45 minutes at any one time, before standing briefly at the workstation for less than 5 minutes; occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, and stoop; never kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; avoid exposure to industrial type vibration; must avoid exposure to workplace hazards, such as dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights; perform no work overhead; as to the use of the upper extremities beneath overhead level, frequently reach; understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; make only simple work related decisions; deal with only occasional changes in work processes and environment; have no contact with the general public; and have only incidental, superficial work-related type contact with the general public, co-workers, and supervisors, i.e., brief, succinct, cursory, concise communication relevant to the task being performed.

Id. at 24.

         At step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work and her acquired job skills do not transfer to other occupations within her RFC. Id. at 30-31. The ALJ then proceeded to step five and, relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, found Plaintiff can perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at 31. Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform the requirements of representative jobs such as table worker/sorter, document preparer, and touchup screener. Id. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 32.

         III. Claim Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff presents one claim of error, alleging the ALJ erred in assessing her obesity. Pl.'s Br. [Doc. No. 15] at 4-9. As explained below, the undersigned finds no grounds for reversal.

         IV. Stand ...

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