United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Billy Don Vance, Jr. requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision of the Commissioner 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 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[.]” 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 June 19, 1959, and was fifty-four years old
at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 26, 145). He
completed one year of college, and has worked as a
respiratory therapist (Tr. 19, 169). The claimant alleges
inability to work since December 31, 2007 due to severe
depression, being a recovering alcoholic and addict, pain in
most of his body, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure,
inability to cope with the public or have relationships,
swelling in his hands and feet, severe headaches, inability
to completely bend his right arm, and numbness in arms and
legs daily (Tr. 168).
13, 2012, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. His applications were denied.
ALJ Doug Gabbard, II, conducted an administrative hearing and
determined in a written opinion dated February 14, 2014, that
the claimant was disabled beginning January 19, 2014 (when
the claimant was within six months of the age of 55), but
that he was not disabled prior to January 19, 2014 (Tr.
10-21). The Appeals Council denied review, but this Court
reversed in Case No. CIV-14-316-RAW-KEW and remanded for
further proceedings (Tr. 393-404). On remand, ALJ Gabbard
held a second administrative hearing and again determined in
a written opinion dated August 2, 2016, that the claimant was
not disabled from December 31, 2007 through January 18, 2014
(Tr. 299-312). The Appeals Council again denied review, so
ALJ Gabbard's August 2016 opinion is the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this
appeal. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that, from December 31, 2007 through January 18,
2014, the claimant had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform less than the full range of
light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b)
and 4165.967(b), i. e., he could lift/carry twenty
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, and stand/walk
and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday, and he could
occasionally reach, including overhead, with his right
dominant arm. Additionally, the ALJ determined that the
claimant was limited to unskilled work (which needs little or
no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned on the
job in a short period of time), where his supervision must be
simple, direct, and concrete; interpersonal contact with
supervisors and co-workers must be incidental to the work
performed, e. g., assembly work; and he must have
normal, regular work breaks, no fast-paced production line
speeds, and no contact with the general public (Tr. 305). The
ALJ thus concluded that although the claimant could not
return to his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not
disabled prior to January 19, 2014, because there was work he
could perform, i. e., conveyor line bakery worker
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ erred
by improperly weighing the medical evidence, namely, the
state agency psychologists' opinions. The undersigned
Magistrate Judge finds this contention unpersuasive for the
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
remote history of acromioclavicular (AC) repair with AC
osteoarthritis spurring, remote history of right knee repair
with mildly narrowed medial and lateral joint spaces,
obesity, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and substance
addiction disorder in remission (Tr. 302). The medical
evidence relevant to this appeal ...