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Smith v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 26, 2019

SUSAN M. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUZANNE MITCHELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Susan M. Smith (Plaintiff), appearing pro se, brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision that she was not “disabled” under the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 423(d)(1)(A). The parties have consented to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). See Docs. 17, 21.

         After careful review of the record (AR), the parties' filings, [1] and the relevant authority, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         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 h[er] 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 [s]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. See id.

         C. Relevant findings.

         1. Administrative Law Judge's findings.

         The ALJ assigned to Plaintiff's case applied the standard regulatory analysis to decide whether Plaintiff was disabled during the relevant timeframe.[2] AR 15-27; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); see also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step process). The ALJ determined that from July 31, 2005, the date of Plaintiff's alleged onset of disability, through December 31, 2010, the date she last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act, Plaintiff:

(1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity;
(2) had two severe impairments, osteoarthrosis of bilateral knees and depressive disorder;[3]
(3) had no impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(4) had the physical residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work requiring her to occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, climb ramps, and climb stairs but not to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and had the mental RFC to perform simple tasks with routine supervision in a work environment requiring her to relate to supervisors and peers on a superficial work basis and adapt to routine workplace changes but not to meet mandatory fast-paced quota levels or relate to the general public;
(5) was unable to perform any of her past relevant work, but could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy such as final inspector, scale operator, and mail clerk; and thus (6) was not disabled between her alleged onset date, July 31, 2005, and the date she was last insured, December 31, 2010.

AR 15-27.

         2. Appeals Council's findings.

         The Social Security Administration's Appeals Council found no reason to review that decision, see Id. at 1-5, “making [it] the Commissioner's final decision for [judicial] review.” Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011).

         II. Judicial review of a Commissioner's ...


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