United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KIMBERLY E. WEST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sherry Morris (“Claimant”) requests judicial
review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”)
denying Claimant's applications 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 48 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
Claimant completed her high school education and one year of
college. Claimant has worked in the past as an office
manager. Claimant alleges an inability to work beginning
April 18, 2010 due to limitations caused by neuropathy,
lupus, and fibromyalgia.
September 6, 2013, Claimant protectively filed for disability
insurance benefits under Title II (42 U.S.C. § 401,
et seq.) of the Social Security Act. Claimant's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On
February 19, 2015, a hearing was held before Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) Doug Gabbard, II in McAlester,
Oklahoma. By decision dated April 7, 2015, the ALJ found that
Claimant was not disabled during the relevant period and
denied Claimant's request for benefits. On October 17,
2016, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
decision. Thus, 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 two of the sequential evaluation.
He determined that while Claimant suffered from medically
determinable impairments, none significantly limited her
ability to perform basic work-related activities for twelve
consecutive months and, therefore, were not severe.
Alleged for Review
asserts the ALJ committed error in (1) concluding that none
of Claimant's medically determinable impairments were
severe; (2) failing to properly weigh the opinions of
Claimant's treating physician; and (3) failing to
properly evaluate Claimant's credibility. The Court will
address these issues somewhat out of the order from which
they are presented in the briefing.
of the Treating Physician's Opinion
decision, the ALJ determined Claimant suffered from the
medically determinable impairments of fibromyalgia, anxiety,
affective disorders, migraines, GERD, chronic interstitial
cystitis, tibialis tendinitis, enthesopathy of ankle and
tarsus, plantar fascial fibromatosis, myalgia, anorexia,
genital herpes, back pain, hip pain, leg pain, ankle and foot
pain, chronic pelvic pain, painful urination, diarrhea,
fatigue, and weight loss. (Tr. 15). He concluded that none of
these impairments or combination of impairments had
significantly limited or was expected to significantly limit
Claimant's ability to perform basic work-related
activities for 12 consecutive months. Therefore, the ALJ