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Andrews v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

March 2, 2017

ROSANNA ANDREWS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEVEN P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The claimant Rosanna Andrews requests judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her application for benefits under the Social Security Act. She appeals the decision of the Commissioner and asserts that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is hereby 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 Social Security Act “only if h[er] physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that [s]he is not only unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering h[er] 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. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.[2]

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is limited to two inquiries: 1) whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence, and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v. Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997) [citation omitted]. The term “substantial evidence” requires “‘more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971), quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). However, the Court may not reweigh the evidence nor substitute its discretion for that of the agency. See Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the Court must review the record as a whole, and “[t]he substantiality of evidence must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.” Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951); see also Casias, 933 F.2d at 800-01.

         Claimant's Background

         The claimant was born on October 31, 1963, and was fifty-one years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 299). She completed the eleventh grade and earned a GED, and has no past relevant work (Tr. 19, 109, 299). The claimant alleges she has been unable to work since June 1, 2007, due to type II diabetes and hip/lower back problems (Tr. 108).

         Procedural History

         On December 10, 2012, the claimant applied for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her application was denied. ALJ Lantz McClain held an administrative hearing and determined the claimant was not disabled in a written decision dated June 19, 2015 (Tr. 13-20). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's written decision represents the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. He found that the claimant retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform the full range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), i. e., that she can lift/carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently, and stand/walk and sit at least six hours in an eight-hour workday (Tr. 16). The ALJ concluded that although the claimant had no past relevant work to return to, she was nevertheless not disabled because there was work she could perform, i. e., dishwasher and fast food worker (Tr. 19-20).

         Review

         The claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ failed to consider her obesity in assessing her claim for disability. The Court finds this contention unpersuasive for the following reasons.

         The ALJ determined that the claimant had the severe impairment of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and the nonsevere impairment of low back and hip pain (Tr. 15). The relevant medical evidence reveals that the claimant was mostly treated at Wilma Mankiller Indian Health Center. Her weight in the ...


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