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Parker-Ramey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

February 9, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.



         The claimant Tanya Parker-Ramey requests judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her application for benefits under the Social Security Act. She appeals the decision of the Commissioner and asserts that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in determining she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision should be AFFIRMED.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability 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[.]” 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.[2]

         Judicial 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: (1) whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v. Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997) [citation omitted]. The term “substantial evidence” requires “‘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). However, the Court may not reweigh the evidence nor substitute its discretion for that of the agency. See Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, 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 800-01.

         Claimant's Background

         The claimant was born on August 28, 1973, and was forty-one years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 72). She completed high school and two years of college, and has worked as an office clerk, teacher in child development, sales clerk, cashier checker, inventory clerk, kitchen helper, social services aide, and certified nursing assistant (Tr. 61, 230). The claimant alleges she has been unable to work since April 1, 2013, due to increased seizure activity/epilepsy, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, insomnia, stomach ulcer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraines, and extreme pain (Tr. 229).

         Procedural History

         On April 30, 2013, 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. Her applications were denied. ALJ Joseph Liken conducted an administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written decision dated October 28, 2015 (Tr. 52-63). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's decision represents the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. He found that the claimant had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a wide range of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), i. e., she could lift/carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently, stand/walk two hours in an eight-hour workday, sit six hours in an eight-hour workday. Additionally, he found she was limited to occasionally climbing ramps/stairs, balancing, stooping, bending, squatting, kneeling, crawling, and crouching, and that she should avoid climbing ladders/ropes/scaffolds, exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights, fast moving machinery, sharp objects, and open flames, as well as extreme heat or concentrated exposure to vibration. Finally, he found that she should not be required to handle complex instructions (Tr. 58). The ALJ thus concluded that although the claimant could not return to her past relevant work, she was nevertheless not disabled because there was work she could perform, e. g., charge account clerk, dowel inspector, and cutter and paster (Tr. 61-62).


         The claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to identify jobs at step five that were consistent with the assigned RFC, (ii) failing to properly consider her mental impairments in formulating her RFC, and (iii) finding she could work a limited range of sedentary jobs. The undersigned Magistrate Judge finds these contentions unpersuasive for the following reasons.

         The ALJ determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of seizure disorder, diabetes, gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD), coronary artery disease, obesity, and depression (Tr. 54). The medical evidence as to the claimant's mental impairments reflects that she was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood back in 2011 (Tr. 308). Additionally, she was treated at the Durant Health Clinic for depression and prescribed medications (Tr. 497). ...

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