United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KIMBERLY E. WEST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Cathy Reichard (the “Claimant”) requests judicial
review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”)
denying Claimant's application for disability benefits
under the Social Security Act. Claimant appeals the decision
of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and
asserts that the Commissioner erred because the ALJ
incorrectly determined that Claimant was not disabled. For
the reasons discussed below, it is the recommendation of the
undersigned that the Commissioner's decision be 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 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. . .” 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: first, whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997)(citation
omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has
been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to
require “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)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias
v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799,
800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the
record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the
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.
was 50 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
Claimant completed her education through the tenth grade,
where she was enrolled in IEP classes. Claimant has worked in
the past as a poultry boner and janitor. Claimant alleges an
inability to work beginning December 8, 2012 due to
limitations resulting from major dysfunction of the left
hand, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine post
fusion, rheumatoid arthritis, a learning disability, a
cognitive disorder, and anxiety disorder.
January 7, 2013, Claimant protectively filed for a disabled
widow's benefits under Title II (42 U.S.C. § 401,
et seq.) and for supplemental security income
pursuant to Title XVI (42 U.S.C. § 1381, et
seq.) of the Social Security Act. The applications for
benefits were denied initially and on reconsideration. On
November 10, 2015, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) John Belcher conducted an administrative
hearing by video with Claimant appearing in Poteau, Oklahoma
and the ALJ presiding from Tulsa, Oklahoma. On November 25,
2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. On April 1,
2016, the Appeals Council denied review. On May 13, 2016, the
Appeals Council vacated its prior order in order to consider
additional information. After considering the additional
information, the Appeals Council denied review. As a result,
the decision of the ALJ represents the Commissioner's
final decision for purposes of further appeal. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He determined that while Claimant suffered from severe
impairments, she retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with limitations.
Alleged for Review
asserts the ALJ committed error in (1) rejecting the findings
of two physicians with regard to Claimant's hand
limitations; and (2) failing to recognize Claimant's two
marked limitations in mental functioning which would meet or
equal a listing.