United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Ricky Minnick requests judicial review of a denial
of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby 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[.]” Id. § 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.
405(g) limits the scope of judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to two inquiries: whether the
decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether
correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997).
Substantial evidence is “‘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); see also Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). The Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its discretion for
the Commissioner's. See Casias v. Secretary of Health
& Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991).
But 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
claimant was born November 1, 1963, and was fifty years old
at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 66, 194). He
completed the eighth grade, and has worked as a termite
exterminator, janitor, construction laborer, and road roller
operator (Tr. 59, 217). The claimant alleges inability to
work since October 31, 2011 due to heart problems, high blood
pressure, and depression (Tr. 216).
October 16, 2012, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. His application was denied.
ALJ David W. Engel, conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated September 17, 2014 (Tr. 46-61). The Appeals
Council denied review, so the ALJ's opinion is the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this
appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of light
and sedentary work, except that he was unable to climb ropes,
ladders, and scaffolds, and was unable to work in
environments where he would be exposed to unprotected heights
and dangerous moving machinery parts. Additionally, the ALJ
determined the claimant could understand, remember, and carry
out simple to moderately detailed instructions in a
work-related setting, and he was able to interact with
co-workers and supervisors, under routine supervision (Tr.
52). The ALJ concluded that although the claimant could not
return to his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not
disabled because there was work he could perform, i.
e., production assembler, bottling line attendant, reel
assembler, and semi-conductor bonder (Tr. 59-60).
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ erred
by improperly weighing the medical evidence, namely, a
treating physician opinion and a consultative examiner's
opinion. The Court finds these contentions unpersuasive for
the following reasons.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
coronary artery disease, status post myocardial infarction
with stent placement, hypertension, and depression (Tr. 50).
The medical evidence relevant to this appeal reveals that the
claimant had a heart attack in 2010, and lost his job in
2011. Following his heart attack in 2010, the claimant
received follow-up treatment from the Oklahoma Heart
Institute. Notes reflect that the claimant was assessed with
hyperlipidemia, smoking or tobacco abuse, myocardial
infarction - recent anterior, coronary atherosclerosis or
native coronary artery, and cardiomyopathy ischemic, and that
he was counseled to stop smoking (Tr. 323, 331, 376).
Additionally, the claimant's ejection fraction had
improved from 35% to 50% between August 30, 2010 and November
29, 2010 (Tr. 344). At a December 5, 2012 appointment, notes
reflect that Dr. Raj Chandwaney explained to the claimant
that he was not disabled from a cardiac perspective, because