United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
TAYLOR M. WALKER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Taylor M. Walker requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision should 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 h[er] physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that [s]he is not only
unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering
h[er] age, education, and work experience, engage in any
other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy[.]” Id. § 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.
405(g) limits the scope of judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to two inquiries: whether the
decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether
correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997).
Substantial evidence is “‘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); see also Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). The Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its discretion for
the Commissioner's. See Casias v. Secretary of Health
& Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir.
1991). But the Court must review the record as a whole, and
“[t]he substantiality of 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
claimant was born April 8, 1982, and was thirty-three years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 68, 1850).
She completed the eleventh grade, and has worked as a cashier
checker/clerk (Tr. 60, 204). The claimant alleges that she
has been unable to work since December 31, 2011 due to
epileptic seizures, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder, depression, and anxiety (Tr. 203).
28, 2013, the claimant applied for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-8. Her application was denied.
ALJ Luke Liter held an administrative hearing and determined
the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated July
2, 2015 (Tr. 52-62). The Appeals Council denied review, so
the ALJ's opinion represents the Commissioner's final
decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant had the RFC to perform
medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), i.
e., she could lift/carry fifty pounds occasionally and
twenty-five pounds frequently, and stand/walk and sit for 6
hours in an 8-hour workday, but with the additional postural
limitations of occasionally climbing ramps/stairs and no
climbing ropes/ladders/scaffolds. Furthermore, he stated that
the claimant was unable to tolerate exposure to hazards such
as unprotected heights or dangerous moving machinery, and
that driving should not be part of her job duties. Finally,
he limited her to simple and some complex tasks (defined as
semi-skilled work with a specific vocational preparation
(SVP) of 3-4); found that contact with the public,
co-workers, and supervisors should be limited to occasional;
and determined she would be absent from work one day per
month (Tr. 57). The ALJ therefore concluded that the claimant
could return to her past relevant work as a cashier/checker
(Tr. 60). Alternatively, he found that the claimant was not
disabled because there was other work she could perform in
the economy, e. g., hand packager, dietary aide, and
order puller (Tr. 61).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) improperly
evaluating her credibility, (ii) failing to properly assess
her RFC, and (iii) failing to fully develop the
record. The undersigned Magistrate Judge finds
these contentions unpersuasive for the following reasons.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
obesity, seizure disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, and
anxiety (Tr. 54). The specific medical evidence relevant to
this appeal reflects that the claimant has received mental
health treatment, including diagnoses of bipolar disorder,
anxiety disorder, and depressive disorder, accompanied by
signs of depression, irritability, and anxiety (Tr. 339). In
2011, her counselor wrote that she had a lot of problems she
had never faced, and needed to talk with someone about them
(Tr. 346). On May 28, 2012, the claimant was admitted to the
hospital with an altered mental status, noting that she may
have had a seizure (Tr. 466). She was stabilized and
discharged (Tr. 468). She also presented to the hospital with
an altered mental status on March 22, 2013, stating it ...