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McLeod v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 9, 2019

RUSSELL MCLEOD, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SUZANNE MITCHELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Russell McLeod (Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision that he was not "disabled" under the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 423(d)(1)(A). United States District Judge Stephen P. Friot has referred the matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B), 636(b)(3). Doc. 17.

         Plaintiff maintains the ALJ improperly weighed two physicians' opinions. After a careful review of the record (AR), the parties' briefs, and the relevant authority, the undersigned recommends the court affirm the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).[1]

         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 to decide whether Plaintiff was disabled during the relevant timeframe. AR 30-42; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); see also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step process). The ALJ found Plaintiff:

(1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date;
(2) had the severe impairments of gout, Grave's disease, degenerative disc disease, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, cervical disc disease, thyroid gland disorder, and neoplasma of eye;
(3) had no impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(4) had the residual functional capacity (RFC)[2] for light work with an additional restriction;
(5) was unable to perform any past relevant work, could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy prior to March 1, 2016, such as riveting machine operator II, glass checker optical goods, and assembler small products II, but could not perform any such jobs on or after March 1, 2016; and thus (6) was ...

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