United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
MICHAEL D. WILSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Michael D. Wilson 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 discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby 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 on June 25, 1977, and was thirty-six years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 156). He
attended some college, and has worked as a stock clerk, sales
attendant, and dispatcher (Tr. 50, 78). The claimant alleges
that he has been unable to work since December 14, 2008, due
to a back injury and carpal tunnel syndrome (Tr. 213).
January 7, 2013, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 (Tr. 156-57). His application
was denied. ALJ Bernard Porter conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated May 8, 2014 (Tr. 21-37). The Appeals
Council denied review, so the ALJ's opinion is the final
decision of the Commissioner 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 the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) with frequent balancing,
stooping, crouching, handling, fingering, and feeling;
occasional kneeling, climbing ramps and stairs, and using
hand controls; and no crawling, overhead reaching, and
climbing ropes, ladders or scaffolds (Tr. 28). The ALJ
further found the claimant must avoid exposure to unprotected
heights, moving mechanical parts, and temperature extremes
(Tr. 28). Additionally, the ALJ found the claimant required a
sit/stand option allowing a change in position at least every
thirty minutes (Tr. 28). Due to psychologically based
factors, the ALJ found the claimant could perform simple
tasks; make simple work-related decisions; and have no more
than occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers, and
the public (Tr. 28). The ALJ found that the claimant's
time off task would be accommodated by normal breaks (Tr.
28). The ALJ then concluded that although the claimant could
not return to his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not
disabled because there was work that he could perform in the
national economy, e. g., small product assembler and
production assembler (Tr. 35-36).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
account for his carpal tunnel syndrome in the RFC. The Court
finds the claimant's contention unpersuasive for the
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, lumbar disc disease,
thoracic spine fracture with disc disease, left shoulder
strain/sprain, mood disorder, and anxiety disorder (Tr. 22).
The relevant medical records reveal that prior to November
2011, the claimant's treatment largely consisted of
emergent care for back pain (December 2008) and neck/shoulder
pain (February 2010 and June 2010) (Tr. 272-76, 291-98,
340-42). On November 16, 2011, the claimant established care
with Dr. Alexander Lee and reported back pain that began
twenty years earlier and was exacerbated by a fall in
December 2008 (Tr. 332-33). On physical examination, Dr. Lee
found limited flexion and extension in the claimant's
thoracic spine due to pain, spasm, and kyphosis (Tr. 333). As
to the ...