United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's
application for benefits under the Social Security Act. The
Commissioner has answered and filed a transcript of the
administrative record (hereinafter TR. ___). The parties have
consented to jurisdiction over this matter by a United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now
at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and
the issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's application for disability insurance
benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable
decision. (TR. 24-42). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the
decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart,
431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 7,
2013, the alleged disability onset date. (TR. 26). At step
two, the ALJ determined Ms. Nickel had the following severe
impairments: status post partial resection of cerebellar
astrocytoma; headaches; disequilibrium syndrome; left ear
hearing loss; status post cerebellar stroke; lupus arthritis;
fibromyalgia; chronic pain syndrome; and depressive disorder.
(TR. 26). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the
presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 27).
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Nickel retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), that
does not require climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
that does not require more than frequent balancing; that does
not require exposure to hazards; and that consists of simple,
(TR. 29). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
capable of performing her past relevant work of fast food
worker or cashier II. (TR. 40).
though the ALJ concluded that Ms. Nickel could perform her
past relevant work, he made additional findings at step five.
There, the ALJ presented several limitations to a vocational
expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the
national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 85-86).
Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR. 86). The ALJ
adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms. Nickel
was not disabled based on her ability to perform the
identified jobs. (TR. 42).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in failing to: (1)
include limitations in the RFC related to severe impairments
at step two and (2) properly evaluate an opinion from a
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to
determin[e] whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct
legal standards were applied.” Wilson v.
Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted).
the court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable
rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in
disability cases, the court will “neither reweigh the
evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the
agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201
(10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
NO ERROR IN THE RFC
Nickel alleges that the RFC failed to include specific
limitations tied to her severe impairment of
“status-post partial resection of cerebellar
astrocytoma” (brain surgery). (ECF No. 13:3-13).
According to Plaintiff, effects of her brain surgery included
headaches and dizziness, which: (1) rendered her unable to
“frequently balance” as set forth in the RFC and
(2) required her to lie down for an amount of time which
would preclude substantial gainful activity. (ECF No.
13:3-13). Ms. Nickel also argues that the ALJ erred in his
duty of explanation at step two, which impacted his step four
analysis. The Court finds no merit to these arguments.
ALJ's Duty in Assessing the RFC
claimant's impairments are deemed severe at step two, the
ALJ has a duty to discuss their impact throughout the
remainder of the disability determination. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(2). Indeed, in formulating the RFC, the ALJ must
discuss the combined effect of all the
claimant's medically determinable impairments, both
severe and nonsevere. See Wells v. Colvin,
727 F.3d 1061, 1065 (10th Cir. 2013). However, the presence
of an impairment, albeit severe, does not necessarily equate
to corresponding limitations in the RFC. Cavalier v.
Colvin, 2014 WL 7408430, at *2 (N.D. Okla. 2014).
need only include such limitations as the medical record
substantially supports. See Kirkpatrick v. Colvin,
663 F. App'x. 646, 650 (10th Cir. 2016) (“Clearly,
an ALJ doesn't commit error by omitting limitations not
supported by the record”); Arles v. Astrue,
438 F. App'x. 735, 740 (10th Cir. 2011) (rejecting
plaintiff's claim a limitation should have been included
in his RFC because “such a limitation has no support in
the record”). In assessing an individual's RFC, the
ALJ must consider the limitations and restrictions imposed by
a claimant's severe ...