Doyal v. Barnhart, No. 02-7106.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMcConnell
Citation331 F.3d 758
Decision Date10 June 2003
Docket NumberNo. 02-7106.
PartiesPauline DOYAL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Jo Anne B. BARNHART, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant-Appellee.

Page 758

331 F.3d 758
Pauline DOYAL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Jo Anne B. BARNHART, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 02-7106.
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
June 10, 2003.

Page 759

Submitted on the briefs: Catherine Cain Taylor of Perrine, McGivern, Redemann, Reid, Berry & Taylor, P.L.L.C., Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Sheldon J. Sperling, United States Attorney, Cheryl Triplett, Assistant United States Attorney, Tina M. Waddell, Regional Chief Counsel, Region VI, Michael McGaughran, Deputy Regional Chief Counsel, and Steven A. Ford, Assistant Regional Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Dallas, Texas, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before HARTZ, O'BRIEN, and McCONNELL, Circuit Judges.

McCONNELL, Circuit Judge.


Plaintiff-appellant Pauline Doyal appeals from an order of the district court affirming the Commissioner's decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI).1 Appellant filed for SSI benefits in April 1997. She alleges disability based on obesity, chronic low back and hip pain, fasciitis affecting the hands and resulting in decreased grip strength, mental problems, and a skin impairment. The agency denied her applications initially and on reconsideration.

On November 19, 1998, appellant received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ denied Ms. Doyal's claim for SSI benefits. On administrative appeal, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded to the ALJ for further development of the record and consideration of a number of issues.2

The ALJ held a second hearing on December 12, 2000, at which additional evidence was received. He subsequently entered a decision again denying Ms. Doyal's claim for SSI benefits, determining that she retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform her past relevant work as a housecleaner and sewing machine operator. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of review.

Page 760

We review the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Andrade v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 985 F.2d 1045, 1047 (10th Cir.1993). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Fowler v. Bowen, 876 F.2d 1451, 1453 (10th Cir.1989) (quotations omitted).

The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir.1988). The claimant bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case of disability at steps one through four. Id. at 751 & n. 2. Ms. Doyal's claim was denied at step four of this sequential process.

Ms. Doyal raises two basic arguments on appeal. First, she argues that the ALJ's analysis of her RFC was deficient. Second, she contends that the ALJ failed to give proper consideration to the opinion of her treating physician.

I.

Ms. Doyal words her first issue broadly, contending she "does not retain the [RFC] to perform substantial gainful activity." Aplt. Br. at 7. She makes no specific argument concerning sufficiency of the evidence to support the ALJ's finding that she can meet the demands of her past relevant work. Instead, she targets the ALJ's alleged failure to make specific findings concerning these demands.3

Ms. Doyal's argument is based on our decision in Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017 (10th Cir.1996). In that case, we noted the three phases of evaluation the ALJ must complete as part of step four of the sequential analysis:

In the first phase, the ALJ must evaluate a claimant's physical and mental residual functional capacity (RFC), and in the second phase, he must determine the physical and mental demands of the claimant's past relevant work. In the final phase, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has the ability to meet the job demands found in phase two despite the mental and/or physical limitations found in phase one. At each of these phases, the ALJ must make specific findings.

Id. at 1023 (citations omitted).

As Ms. Doyal concedes, the ALJ made the RFC findings required by phase one of this analysis. Phase two required him to make specific findings concerning the physical and mental demands of her past relevant work. The ALJ stated:

The vocational expert testified that the claimant's past relevant work as a housecleaner and sewing machine operator would be classified as light and unskilled, and her past relevant work as an activities director would be classified as light and semiskilled.... The vocational expert indicated that the claimant's past relevant work as a housecleaner and sewing machine operator did not require lifting more than 20 pounds, walking for prolonged periods, or performing tasks requiring bilateral normal grip strength.

Aplt.App. at 34.

Phase three required the ALJ to reach a conclusion concerning whether Ms. Doyal

Page 761

could satisfy the demands of her past relevant work, based on his findings in phases one and two. The ALJ concluded that she could:

The impartial vocational expert offered testimony indicating that given her particular residual functional capacity, the claimant can perform past relevant work. The vocational expert added that there is no variance between the description of these jobs found in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the claimant's residual functional capacity (S.S.R.00-4p). Because Ms. Doyal's past relevant work did not require the performance of work activities precluded by her medically determinable impairments, I conclude that she is able to perform her past relevant work as a housecleaner and sewing machine operator.

Id.

Ms. Doyal complains that the ALJ simply relied on the opinion of the vocational expert (VE) as to the demands of her past relevant work, without making the proper findings required by the remaining phases of the analysis. It is improper for an ALJ to make RFC findings and then to delegate the remaining phases of the step four analysis to the vocational expert, because in such cases, "the remainder of the step four assessment takes place in the VE's head" and "we are left with nothing to review." Winfrey, 92 F.3d at 1025. That is not what occurred here, however. The ALJ did not delegate the analysis to the vocational expert; instead, he quoted the VE's testimony approvingly, in support of his own findings at phases two and three of the analysis. There was nothing improper about this. An "ALJ may rely on information supplied by the VE at step four." Id.

While the ALJ did not use the phrase "I find" in connection with his conclusion in the second phase of the analysis, the form of words should not obscure the substance of what the ALJ actually did. The ALJ's findings were adequate here to satisfy the step four requirements articulated in Winfrey.

II.

Ms. Doyal also contends that the ALJ improperly discounted the opinion of her physician, Dr. Webb, concerning her RFC. In a medical source statement, Dr. Webb opined that Ms. Doyal could frequently lift or carry no more than ten pounds, could stand or walk no more than four hours in a day or thirty minutes continuously, could sit for no more than two hours a day or continuously, and should never climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or handle or finger objects. Aplt.App. at 340-41.

This opinion represents a considerably more restricted view of Ms. Doyal's capabilities than the RFC values assigned by the ALJ. The ALJ found that Ms. Doyal was capable of lifting or carrying a maximum of twenty pounds and carrying up to ten pounds on a regular basis. The only limitations he placed on her ability to perform the other exertional tasks associated with light work were that she not walk for prolonged periods (over fifteen minutes at a time) and that she not perform tasks that require normal grip strength...

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1872 practice notes
  • Wy Outdoor Council Powder River v. U.S. Army Corps, No. 02-CV-155-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • January 7, 2005
    ...to support a conclusion." Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, 377 F.3d 1147, 1156 (10th Cir.2004) (quoting Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.2003)). "This is something more than a scintilla but something less than the weight of the evidence. Evidence is generally su......
  • Scott v. Berryhill, Case No. 16–CV–251–GKF–GBC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Oklahoma
    • September 14, 2017
    ...findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct legal standards were applied." Doyal v. Barnhart , 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003). On review, the court will "neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency." White v.......
  • Wyoming Lodging v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, No. 04-CV-315-B.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Wyoming
    • October 14, 2005
    ...evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.2003) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "This is something more than a mere scintilla but something less than the weight of the......
  • Wyoming v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, Case No. 2:16-CV-0285-SWS (Lead Case)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • October 8, 2020
    ...as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Pennaco Energy , 377 F.3d at 1156 (quoting Doyal v. Barnhart , 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) ). "Because the arbitrary and capricious standard focuses on the rationality of an agency's decisionmaking process rather......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1881 cases
  • Wy Outdoor Council Powder River v. U.S. Army Corps, No. 02-CV-155-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • January 7, 2005
    ...to support a conclusion." Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, 377 F.3d 1147, 1156 (10th Cir.2004) (quoting Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.2003)). "This is something more than a scintilla but something less than the weight of the evidence. Evidence is generally su......
  • Scott v. Berryhill, Case No. 16–CV–251–GKF–GBC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Oklahoma
    • September 14, 2017
    ...findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct legal standards were applied." Doyal v. Barnhart , 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003). On review, the court will "neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency." White v.......
  • Wyoming Lodging v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, No. 04-CV-315-B.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Wyoming
    • October 14, 2005
    ...evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.2003) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "This is something more than a mere scintilla but something less than the weight of the......
  • Wyoming v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, Case No. 2:16-CV-0285-SWS (Lead Case)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • October 8, 2020
    ...as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Pennaco Energy , 377 F.3d at 1156 (quoting Doyal v. Barnhart , 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) ). "Because the arbitrary and capricious standard focuses on the rationality of an agency's decisionmaking process rather......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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