United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Sheila Butler, seeks judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's denial of her application for
supplemental security income (SSI). United States District
Judge David L. Russell has referred the matter for proposed
findings and recommendations. See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 636(b)(1)(B), 636(B)(3); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The
Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (AR) [Doc.
No. 15], and both parties have briefed their
positions. For the reasons set forth below, it is
recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
April 29, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an
unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled and,
therefore, not entitled to SSI. AR 16-22. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at
1-3. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision constitutes the
Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v.
Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff
timely commenced this action for judicial review.
The ALJ's Decision
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
process for consideration of disability claims.”
Smith v. Colvin, 821 F.3d 1264, 1266 (10th Cir.
2016). “At the second step, the [ALJ] is to consider
whether an impairment is severe.” Id. If the
impairment is severe, the ALJ “must continue to
consider the impairment through the third, fourth, and fifth
steps.” Id. “If the claimant has no
severe impairments, the judge can end the review at the
second step.” Id.; see also 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii) (“If you do not have a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . . or
a combination of impairments that is severe . . . we will
find that you are not disabled.”).
at step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from
the medically determinable impairments of “degenerative
joint disease of the left knee; status post (s/p) left and
right knee arthroscopies; and obesity” but that the
impairments, individually or in combination, had not
significantly limited Plaintiff's ability to perform
basic work activities and were therefore not severe. AR
18-19. Finding no severe impairments, the ALJ found Plaintiff
not disabled under the Social Security Act. Id. at
Claims Presented for Judicial Review
alleges the ALJ: (1) lacked substantial evidence to find
Plaintiff's right knee impairment was non-severe; (2)
relied on a stale medical opinion; (3) failed to weigh the
treating physician's opinion; and, (4) failed to properly
consider the combined effects of Plaintiff's obesity with
her other impairments. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court finds no grounds for reversal.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758,
760 (10th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). A decision is not
based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other
evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of
evidence supporting it. See Branum v. Barnhart, 385
F.3d 1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004). While the Court considers
whether the ALJ followed the applicable rules of law in
weighing particular types of evidence in disability cases, it
does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment
for that of the Commissioner. See Bowman v. Astrue,
511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (quotations and
two, the ALJ must determine “whether the claimant has a
medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137,
140-141 (1987). The agency's “severity
regulation” governs the determination, and provides in
If you do not have any impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits your physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities, we will find that
you do not have a severe impairment and are, therefore, not
disabled. We ...