United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Lisa Ann Bell 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 October 18, 1970, and was forty-three
years old at the time of the most recent administrative
hearing (Tr. 387). She completed the tenth grade, and has
worked as a nurse aide (Tr. 192, 375). The claimant alleges
she has been unable to work since May 5, 2007, due to
degenerative disc disease, problems with her knees, morbid
obesity, and depression (Tr. 191).
February 8, 2010, 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 Trace Baldwin conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
decision dated August 24, 2011 (Tr. 13-25). The Appeals
Council denied review, but this Court reversed on appeal in
Case No. CIV-12-124-SPS, and remanded the case to the ALJ
with instructions to properly account for the claimant's
obesity (Tr. 438-451). ALJ Bernard Porter held a second
administrative hearing and again determined that the claimant
was not disabled in a written opinion dated October 2, 2014
(Tr. 359-377). The Appeals Council again 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, 416.1481.
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 range of sedentary
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a), i. e., she could lift/carry ten pounds
occasionally and five pounds frequently, stand/walk two hours
in an eight-hour workday, sit six hours in an eight-hour
workday. Additionally, he found she was limited to
occasionally using foot and hand controls, kneeling, and
climbing ramps and stairs; frequently balancing, stooping,
and crouching; and never crawling, or climbing ladders or
scaffolds. Furthermore, he found she was precluded from work
at unprotected heights, around moving mechanical parts,
concentrated exposures to humidity, wetness, dust, fumes, and
gases, and environments with temperature extremes. Finally,
he limited her to simple tasks and simple work-related work
decisions with occasional interaction with co-workers and
supervisors but no interaction with the general public with
time off tasks accommodated by normal workday breaks (Tr.
366). The ALJ thus concluded that although the claimant could
not return to her past relevant work, she was nevertheless
not disabled because there was work she could perform, e.
g., document scanner, address clerk, and assembly
inspector (Tr. 375-376).
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
opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Michael Irvin, D.O.
Neither of these contentions have merit, and the decision of
the Commissioner should therefore be affirmed.
remand, ALJ Porter determined that the claimant had the
severe impairments of obesity, lumbar disc disease, diabetes
mellitus, neuropathy, degenerative joint disease of the
knees, and major depression (Tr. 361). The medical evidence
reflects that on January 17, 2008, a CT scan of the lumbar
spine revealed mild central canal stenosis at ¶ 4-L5 and
L5-S1, as well as degenerative disk disease L5-S1 (Tr. 246).
On October 8, 2008, she underwent a left knee arthroscopy