United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
B. Cohn, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for decision. Plaintiff Jackie Darlene Wilson
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's
decision finding of not disabled. As set forth below, the
Court DENIES Plaintiff's appeal and
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision in
STANDARD OF REVIEW
receive disability or supplemental security benefits under
the Social Security Act (“Act”), a claimant bears
the burden to demonstrate an “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).
further provides that 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, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Plaintiff must demonstrate the physical or mental impairment
“by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process
to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748,
750 (10th Cir. 1988) (setting forth the five steps in
detail). “If a determination can be made at any of the
steps that a plaintiff is or is not disabled, evaluation
under a subsequent step is not necessary.”
Williams, 844 F.2d at 750. The claimant bears the
burden of proof at steps one through four. See Wells v.
Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1064 at n.1. (10th Cir. 2013). If
the claimant satisfies this burden, then the Commissioner
must show at step five that jobs exist in the national
economy that a person with the claimant's abilities, age,
education, and work experience can perform. Id.
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See e.g., 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (“court shall review only the
question of conformity with such regulations and the validity
of such regulations”); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399
F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is
more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. See id.
Substantial evidence “does not mean a large or
considerable amount of evidence, but rather ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). The Court's review is based on the record, and
the Court will “meticulously examine the record as a
whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from
the [Administrative Law Judge's] findings in order to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Id. The Court may neither re-weigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Hackett v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir.
2005). Even if the Court might have reached a different
conclusion, if supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner's decision stands. See White v.
Barnhart, 287 F.3d 903, 908 (10th Cir. 2002).
March 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits. (Doc. 13, Tr. 147-53). She
claimed she became disabled on March 24, 2014, due to back,
neck, and knee problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, high blood
pressure, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, and anxiety. (Tr.
181). Following a hearing in December 2015 (Tr. 34-65), an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), in a decision
dated February 18, 2016, concluded Plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 17-29). At the time of
that decision, Plaintiff was 60 years old. (Tr. 160), and she
possessed a high school (and some vocational) education. (Tr.
182). The Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 1-5). This appeal followed.
ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the following error: The ALJ's
findings at step four of the sequential evaluation process
were legally flawed and not supported by substantial
evidence. (Pl. Br. at 4, Doc. 16).
ALJ's Step Four Evaluation of Plaintiff's Past
states the ALJ erred by finding her capable of returning to
past composite work as actually or generally performed. (Pl.
Br. at 4-5). In the decision, the ALJ assessed
Plaintiff's severe impairments and residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), prior to evaluating whether she
could perform past work.
The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity,
lumbar spine impairment, cervical spine impairment, hand pain
status post carpal tunnel surgery 20 years ago, and ...