United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
LADONNA R. DENNIS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Ladonna R. Dennis 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 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 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.
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 was born on March 13, 1961, and was fifty-three
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 32).
She completed the twelfth grade, and has worked as a cake
decorator, cashier/stocker, and cook/supervisor (Tr. 45,
269). The claimant alleges she has been unable to work since
December 1, 2011 due to back problems, depression, and pain
in both hands and the left wrist (Tr. 268).
3, 2012, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her applications were denied.
ALJ John Belcher conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
decision dated December 19, 2014 (Tr. 14-22). The Appeals
Council denied review, so the ALJ's decision represents
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 four of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than the full
range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), i. e., she could
lift/carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently with consistent pushing/pulling limitations,
stand/walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit
for six to eight hours in an eight-hour workday, and that she
could frequently finger, handle, and feel bilaterally (Tr.
19). The ALJ thus concluded that the claimant could return to
her past relevant work as either a cake decorator or
cashier/stocker (Tr. 21).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly assess her RFC, specifically as to her mental
impairments, and (ii) failing to properly consider the
treatment records related to her mental impairments,
particularly in relation to his findings regarding the
severity of her mental impairments. Neither of these
contentions have merit, and the decision of the Commissioner
should therefore be affirmed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease and bilateral wrist carpal tunnel
syndrome, we all as the nonsevere impairments of bilateral
hand pain, obese/overweight, and anxiety (Tr. 16). The
relevant medical evidence reflects that the claimant was
treated for anxiety ...