United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
YALONDA C. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
B. Cohn United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for a report and recommendation. Yalonda C. Williams
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's
decision finding of not disabled. As set forth below, the
undersigned recommends to DENY
Plaintiff's appeal and AFFIRM the
Commissioner's decision in this case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
receive disability or supplemental security benefits under
the Social Security Act (“Act”), a claimant bears
the burden to demonstrate an “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).
further provides that an individual:
shall be determined to be under a disability 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, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Plaintiff must demonstrate the physical or mental impairment
“by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process
to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748,
750 (10th Cir. 1988) (setting forth the five steps in
detail). “If a determination can be made at any of the
steps that a plaintiff is or is not disabled, evaluation
under a subsequent step is not necessary.”
Williams, 844 F.2d at 750. The claimant bears the
burden of proof at steps one through four. See Wells v.
Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1064 at n.1. (10th Cir. 2013). If
the claimant satisfies this burden, then the Commissioner
must show at step five that jobs exist in the national
economy that a person with the claimant's abilities, age,
education, and work experience can perform. Id.
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See e.g., 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (“court shall review only the
question of conformity with such regulations and the validity
of such regulations”); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399
F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is
more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. See id.
Substantial evidence “does not mean a large or
considerable amount of evidence, but rather ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). The Court's review is based on the record, and
the Court will “meticulously examine the record as a
whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from
the [Administrative Law Judge's] findings in order to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Id. The Court may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Hackett v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir.
2005). Even if the Court might have reached a different
conclusion, if supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner's decision stands. See White v.
Barnhart, 287 F.3d 903, 908 (10th Cir. 2002).
November 15 and 21, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed a
claim for supplemental security income and disability
insurance benefits, originally alleging disability since
October 11, 2012. (Tr. 198). Plaintiff was 51 years old on
the date of the Commissioner's final decision (Tr. 36,
38, 198, 201). At the administrative hearing, an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) granted her
motion to amend the onset date to November 1, 2013, based on
the receipt of unemployment benefits until that date. (Tr.
19, 36, 38). On April 29, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision on
finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 17-25). On July 20,
2016, the agency's appeals council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Tr. 1-5). This appeal followed.
ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
appeal, Plaintiff alleges two errors: (1) the ALJ erred
violated agency regulations by citing insufficient vocational
testimony at step five of the sequential evaluation process;
and (2) the ALJ violated agency regulations by relying on the
improper weighing of the medical evidence by her state agency
physicians. (Pl. Br. at 2, Doc. 13).
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) and the
Hypothetical Question 1.Performance of Other Jobs
states the ALJ erred at step five of the sequential
evaluation process. (Pl. Br. at 2).
evaluated Plaintiff's severe impairments and RFC before
determining whether Plaintiff could perform other jobs in the
The claimant has the following severe impairment:
degenerative disc disease …
the claimant has the RFC to perform less than the full range
of “light” work … Claimant could lift /
carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and up to 10 pounds
frequently; could sit for up to six hours in an eight-hour
workday with normal breaks; could stand / walk for up to six
hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks; could push
/ pull up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently;
and could occasionally reach overhead with either left or
(Tr. 20-21). The ALJ proposed a hypothetical question with
Plaintiff's RFC to the vocational expert
(“VE”). (Tr. 70-71). The VE testified such an
individual could perform the unskilled light jobs of routing
clerk and assembler of electrical accessories. (Tr. 73).
found the VE testimony consistent with the U.S. Department of
Labor, Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”)
and Plaintiff could perform the jobs in the national economy.
(Tr. 24). Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred because the DOT
classifies those jobs as “frequent reaching” when
Plaintiff has a limitation for occasional reaching overhead.
(Pl. Br. at 3).
hearing, the ALJ specifically questioned the VE regarding the
overhead reaching. (Tr. 71). Following the ALJ's inquiry,
the VE eliminated the “housekeeper” job due to
the possibility of overhead reaching. (Tr. 72). However, the
VE testified a production worker would not have more than
occasional overhead reaching. Id. According to the
DOT, the two occupations identified by the vocational
expert-routing clerk, DOT No. 222.687-022, 1991 WL 672133,
and assembler of electrical accessories, DOT No. 729.687-010,
1991 WL 679733-require: “Reaching: Frequently - Exists
from 1/3 to 2/3 of the time.” The DOT further describes
the jobs of routing clerk and assembler of electrical
accessories as follows:
Sorts bundles, boxes, or lots of articles for delivery: Reads
delivery or route numbers marked on articles or delivery
slips, or determines locations of addresses indicated on
delivery slips, using charts. Places or stacks articles in
bins designated according to route, driver, or type. May be
designated according to work station as Conveyor Belt Package
Sorter (retail trade). May sort sacks of mail and be known as
Mail Sorter (r.r. trans.).
DOT No. 222.687-022, 1991 WL ...