United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
GORDON R. SOWERS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY E. WEST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Gordon R. Sowers (the “Claimant”) requests
judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying Claimant's
application for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act. Claimant appeals the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) and asserts that the Commissioner
erred because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Claimant
was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, it is the
finding of this Court that the Commissioner's decision
should be and is AFFIRMED.
Security Law and Standard of Review
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 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. See, 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.
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: first, whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997)(citation
omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has
been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to
require “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)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias
v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799,
800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the
record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the
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.
Background Claimant was born on July 31, 1961 and was 52
years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Claimant
completed his education halfway through the ninth grade.
Claimant has worked in the past as a caulker at a
waterproofing business and a construction worker. Claimant
alleges an inability to work beginning December 1, 2012 due
to limitations resulting from hepatitis C, lower back
problems, high blood pressure, rectal bleeding, and migraine
January 9, 2013, Claimant protectively filed for supplemental
security income pursuant to Title XVI (42 U.S.C. § 1381,
et seq.) of the Social Security Act. Claimant's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On
March 5, 2014, an administrative hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) James Stewart in
Tulsa, Oklahoma. He issued an unfavorable decision on April
25, 2014. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
decision on September 25, 2015. As a result, the decision of
the ALJ represents the Commissioner's final decision for
purposes of further appeal. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He determined that while Claimant suffered from severe
impairments, he did not meet a listing and retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work with limitations.
Alleged for Review
asserts the ALJ committed error in providing an assessment of
Claimant's deficits in adaptive functioning which was not
supported by substantial evidence.
of a Listing
decision, the ALJ found Claimant suffered from the severe
impairments of lower back pain, high blood pressure, migraine
headaches, and borderline intellectual functioning. (Tr. 27).
The ALJ determined Claimant retained the RFC to perform light
work. He found that, due to severe mental impairments,
Claimant was limited to unskilled work consisting of simple
and routine tasks with routine supervision that require only
that he be able to understand, remember, and carry out simple
instructions with no contact with the general public and only
occasional contact with co-workers. Contact with co-workers
must be superficial. The ALJ further determined that ...