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Allen v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

February 10, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


         Plaintiff, Ronnie Clay Allen, Sr. (“Allen”), seeks judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability under the Social Security Act is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A claimant is disabled under the Act 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). Social Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.[1] See also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (detailing steps). “If a determination can be made at any of the steps that a claimant is or is not disabled, evaluation under a subsequent step is not necessary.” Lax, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation omitted).

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in scope to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the correct legal standards were applied. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004).

         “Substantial evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (quotation and citation omitted). Although the court will not reweigh the evidence, the court will “meticulously examine the record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Id.


         Allen was forty-two years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and forty-four on the date of the Commissioner's final decision. [R. 1, R. 150 (Ex. 1D)]. He has a GED. [R.40]. He has previous experience as an auto glass installer. [R. 154 (Ex. B2E)]. In his application, he claimed to be unable to work as a result of bipolar I and II disorder with psychotic tendencies, major depression, high cholesterol, hand shaking, tiredness, memory and concentration, inability to get along with others, blood sugar and elevated liver enzymes.

         The ALJ's Decision

         In his decision, the ALJ found that Allen last met insured status requirements on March 31, 2014, and, at Step One, that he had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity during the period from his amended alleged onset date of February 8, 2013, through his date last insured of March 31, 2014. [R. 14]. He found at Step Two that Allen had severe impairments of bipolar disorder and substance addiction disorder. Id. At Step Three, he found that the impairments did not meet or medically equal any listing. [R. 14-15]. He concluded that Allen had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

The claimant is limited to simple and some complex tasks (defined as semi-skilled work with a specific vocational preparation (SVP) of 3-4). The claimant is unable to have contact with the public. The claimant' contact with co-workers and supervisors should be superficial (defined as brief and cursory contact). .

[R. 16]. At Step Four, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured, Allen was unable to perform any past relevant work. [R. 24]. At Step Five, he found that, considering Allen's age, education, work experience and residual functional capacity, there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that he could have performed, including hand packager, DOT #920.587-018, unskilled (SVP-2), medium exertion, 666, 000 in the national economy; auto detailer, DOT #915.687-034, unskilled (SVP-2), medium exertion, 290, 000 in the national economy; and box maker, DOT #794.684-014, unskilled (SVP-2), medium exertion, 239, 000 in the national economy. [R. 25].

         Accordingly, the ALJ found that Allen had not been under a disability at any time from February 8, 2013, the amended alleged onset date, through March 31, 2014, the date last insured. Id.

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         On appeal, Allen asserts that the ALJ should have given greater weight to the expert medical opinion of his treating licensed behavioral health professional (“LBHP”), should have re-contacted the LBHP to ascertain if her opinion was relevant to the period before the date last insured and should have arranged ...

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