United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
H. McCARTHY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Kimberly Dawn Reece, 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, 248 F.3d 1235, 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, 14');">1420');">91 S.Ct. 14');">1420, 14');">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., 14');">1495');">961 F.2d 14');">1495 (10th Cir. 1992).
was 44 years old on the alleged date of onset of disability
and 46 on the date of the denial decision. Plaintiff has her
associate's degree in social work and her past work
experience includes customer service representative, loan
clerk, and janitor. Plaintiff claims to have become disabled
as of January 17, 2014');">14 due to bipolar disorder,
schizoaffective disorder, depression, and anxiety. [R. 242].
found that Plaintiff has severe impairments relating to
moderate osteoarthritis of the knees, morbid obesity, COPD,
schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and generalized
anxiety disorder. [R. 25]. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity to perform light to
sedentary exertional work; walking and standing is limited to
2 hours of an 8-hour workday with regular work breaks.
Plaintiff is able to sit for 6 hours of an 8-hour workday
with regular work breaks. Plaintiff is able to climb ramps or
stairs only occasionally; is able to bend, stoop, crouch, and
crawl not more than occasionally; is unable to climb ropes,
ladders, and scaffolds; or work in environments where she
would be exposed to unprotected heights and dangerous moving
machinery parts. Plaintiff is able to perform tasks requiring
overhead reaching more than occasionally; and unable to
perform tasks requiring the use of foot pedals more than
occasionally. Plaintiff is also limited to simple
instructions and to occasional public contact. [R. 27-28].
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform her
past relevant work as a customer service representative, loan
clerk, or janitor. [R. 31]. Further, based on the testimony
of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined that there are a
significant number of jobs in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform. [R. 32-33]. Accordingly, the ALJ
found Plaintiff was not disabled. The case was thus decided
at step five 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 detail).
asserts that the ALJ failed to: 1) properly consider medical
source opinions; and 2) properly consider Plaintiff's
statements. [Dkt. 14');">14, p. 4].
argues that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion
of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Shirley L.
Chesnut, D.O. Plaintiff contends Dr. Chesnut's opinion
should outweigh the opinion from a nonexamining physician.
[Dkt. 14');">14, p. 5]. A treating physician's opinion is
accorded controlling weight if it is well-supported by
medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic
techniques and is not inconsistent with other substantial
evidence in the record. However, if the opinion is deficient
in either of these respects, it is not given controlling
weight. When an ALJ decides to disregard a medical report by
a claimant's physician, he must set forth specific,
legitimate reasons for his decision. An ALJ "may reject
a treating physician's opinion outright only on the basis
of contradictory medical evidence and not due to his or her
own credibility judgments, speculation or lay opinion."
Watkins v. Barnhart, 350 F.3d, 1297, 2003 WL
22855009 (10th Cir. 2003). If the ALJ decides that a treating
source's opinion is not entitled to controlling weight,
he must determine the weight it should be given after
considering: (1) the length of the treatment relationship and
the frequency of examination; (2) the nature and extent of
the treatment relationship, including the treatment provided
and the kind of examination or testing performed; (3) the
degree to which the treating source's opinion is
supported by objective evidence; (4) whether the opinion is
consistent with the record as a whole; (5) whether or not the
treating source is a specialist in the area upon which an
opinion is given; and (6) other factors brought to the
ALJ's attention which tend to support or contradict the
opinion. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2)-(6).
began mental health treatment with Dr. Chesnut at
Northeastern Tribal Health System in January 2012. [R.
382-383]. On October 27, 2014');">14, Dr. Chesnut completed a
Medical Source Statement - Mental, [R. 404-406],
opining Plaintiff was unable to perform 50% or greater in
most areas of mental functioning based upon bipolar disorder,
schizoaffective disorder, and auditory hallucinations. Dr.
Chesnut opined that Plaintiff had the ability to interact
appropriately with the public and accept instructions and
criticism from ...