United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
H. McCARTHY, United States Magistrate Judge
Frank Leonard Wheatley, Jr., seeks judicial review of a
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying disability benefits. In accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) & (3), the parties have
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.
role of the court in reviewing the decision of the
Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to a
determination of whether the decision is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the decision contains a
sufficient basis to determine that the Commissioner has
applied the correct legal standards. See Briggs ex rel.
Briggs v. Massanari, 12');">1235');">248 F.3d 12');">1235, 12');">1237 (10th Cir.
2001); Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017 (10th Cir.
1996); Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human
Servs., 26 F.3d 1027, 1028 (10th Cir. 1994). Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance,
and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28
L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court may neither
reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner. Casias v. Secretary of Health &
Human Servs., 993 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Even
if the court would have reached a different conclusion, if
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
decision stands. Hamilton v. Secretary of Health &
Human Servs., 961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).
was 48 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability
and 51 on the date of the denial decision. Plaintiff has his
high school diploma and has attended some college, technical,
and vocational schools. His past work experience includes
warehouse worker and call center billing clerk. [R. 20, 50].
Plaintiff claims to have become disabled as of October 1,
2012');">12 due to limited use of shoulders, hands, and leg. [R.
found that Plaintiff has severe impairments relating to
status post left ankle fracture, left fibular fracture, left
finger fractures, multiple rib fractures, right elbow
dislocation, status post dorsal capsulotomy and tenolysis to
left little finger, osteoarthritis of the right shoulder,
status post hardware removal in left ankle, degenerative disc
disease, and polyarthritis. [R. 11]. The ALJ found
Plaintiff's alleged depression to be non-severe. [R. 13].
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), except only occasional stooping, kneeling,
crouching, crawling, and climbing of stairs; frequent
balancing; and avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold,
wetness (work in an office like a law office), vibration, and
hazards. [R. 15]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was able
to perform his past relevant work as a call center billing
clerk. [R. 20]. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not
disabled. The case was thus decided at step four of the
five-step evaluative sequence for determining whether a
claimant is disabled. See Williams v. Bowen, 844
F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir. 1988) (discussing five steps in
asserts the ALJ committed reversible legal error by failing
to: 1) properly evaluate the opinion of consultative
psychologist, William L. Cooper, Ph.D.; and 2) failing to
consider Plaintiff's allegedly non-severe mental
impairments throughout the sequential evaluation process.
[Dkt. 12');">12, p. 6].
consultative psychological examination was performed by Dr.
Cooper on May 11, 2015. Plaintiff reported experiencing
anxiety and depression since his motorcycle accident in
October 2012');">12. A mental status examination revealed Plaintiff
spoke clearly, adequately expressed his thoughts, and
although he would veer off topic his speech was
well-organized. Dr. Cooper noted that Plaintiff did not
appear highly depressed although the content of his speech
suggested moderate depression. His memory and concentration
were fair. Dr. Cooper completed a Medical Source Statement
opining Plaintiff had a moderate limitation in his ability to
respond appropriately to usual work situations and to changes
in a routine work setting. All other areas of mental
functioning were rated as mild. The ALJ gave great weight
only to Dr. Cooper's opinion that Plaintiff had mild
limitations in mental functioning noting that Plaintiff's
daily activities are consistent with a mild limitation due to
depression. [R. 12');">12, 525-29].
argues that the ALJ gave great weight to Dr. Cooper's
opinions reflecting Plaintiff's mild limitations but
failed to describe the weight accorded to his moderate
limitations. [Dkt. 12');">12, p. 8-9]. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff
did not allege disability due to depression, nor was there
evidence he sought or received mental health treatment.
Further, Plaintiff's alleged depression could produce
some of the alleged symptoms and detract to some degree from
the claimant's optimal functionality, however, there is
no indication of a significant impact on his daily
activities/abilities and overall employability. The ALJ
determined, “[t]he pertinent objective medical findings
do not support the presence of mental problems or
restrictions of disabling proportions, and are unremarkable
for the kind of behavioral cognitive/communicative, mood, or
other mental status abnormalities that would indicate the
presence of a seriously limiting mental disorder. [R. 13].
Further, the ALJ specifically stated the “residual
functional capacity assessment reflects the degree of
limitation the undersigned has found in the ‘paragraph
B' mental function analysis.” [R. 14]. The ALJ
concluded that based upon the totality of the evidence,
Plaintiff's medically determinable mental impairment of
major depression disorder versus a mood disorder versus an
adjustment disorder with depressed mood does not cause more
than a minimal limitation in Plaintiff's ability to
perform basic mental work activities and was therefore
non-severe. [R. 13].
the ALJ did not specifically accord weight to or state that
he was rejecting Dr. Cooper's moderate limitations, the
decision clearly showed that those limitations were
considered and then rejected. The ALJ's failure to
specify the weight given to Dr. Cooper's medical opinion
pertaining to his moderate limitations is not cause for
reversal of the decision. Review requires the court to use
common sense, not technical perfection, as its guide.
Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue,695 F.3d 1156 (10th Cir.
2012');">12). The ALJ's citation to the medical evidence
satisfies the requirement that the ALJ's decision be
sufficiently specific to make clear to any ...