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Bostic v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Kansas

January 9, 2015



JULIE A. ROBINSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for review of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff David Bostic's applications for a period of disability and disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, [1] and supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.[2] Because the Court finds that Defendant Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court affirms the decision of Defendant Commissioner.

I. Procedural History

On June 22, 2010, Plaintiff protectively applied for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income benefits. His applications claimed an onset date of April 4, 2010; and he was last insured for disability insurance benefits on December 31, 2014. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). After a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled; the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff then timely sought judicial review before this Court.

II. Standard for Judicial Review

Judicial review under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) is limited to whether Defendant's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether Defendant applied the correct legal standards.[3] The Tenth Circuit has defined "substantial evidence" as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."[4] In the course of its review, the court may not re-weigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of Defendant.[5]

III. Legal Standards and Analytical Framework

Under the Social Security Act, "disability" means the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment."[6] An individual "shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy."[7] The Secretary has established a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is disabled.[8] If the ALJ determines the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any step along the way, the evaluation ends.[9]

Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's determination at step one that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity[10] since April 4, 2010, the alleged onset date. Nor does Plaintiff challenge the ALJ's determination at step two that Plaintiff has medically "severe" impairments: major depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), generalized anxiety disorder, polysubstance abuse in partial remission, and borderline personality disorder.

But Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's determination of Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) at step four based on the ALJ's purportedly erroneous evaluation of the medical evidence, including the weight accorded to the opinions of his treating physician, psychologists who examined him, and state agency psychologists who reviewed the records but did not examine him.

IV. Discussion

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly: discounted the opinion of his treating physician, Dr. Ram; accorded too much weight to the opinions of state agency psychologists, Drs. Cohen and Biscardi, who reviewed records but did not examine him; misconstrued the opinion of examining psychologist Dr. Schwartz; and entirely failed to weigh the opinion of psychologist Dr. Pearce who examined him and performed neuropsychological testing.

A. The ALJ's RFC Determination

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks requiring no more than one or two steps and which require no reading of directions in the performance of the job. The ALJ further determined that Plaintiff is able to respond to occasional changes in the work setting as well as ...

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