United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jose Manuel Varela, seeks judicial review of the Social
Security Administration's denial of his application for
disability insurance benefits (DIB). The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by
a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative
Record (AR) [Doc. No. 11], and both parties have briefed
their positions. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
March 31, 2017, on remand from this Court, an Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to
DIB. AR 643-55. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. Id. at 743-44. Accordingly, the
ALJ's decision constitutes the Commissioner's final
decision. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327
(10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff timely commenced this action for
The ALJ's Decision
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d
1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Following this process,
the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements for DIB through December 31, 2017, and
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March
17, 2012, his alleged onset date. AR 645.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following
severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, obesity, gout, major
depressive disorder, status post traumatic brain injury,
posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder,
osteoarthritis of the knees, headaches, and sleep apnea.
Id. at 646. At step three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal
any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, App. 1. Id. at 646-48.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC), concluding that:
[Plaintiff can] . . . lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally
and less than 10 pounds frequently. [Plaintiff] can sit for
about 6 hours during an eight-hour workday and can stand and
walk for at least 2 hours during an eight-hour workday.
[Plaintiff] can occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance,
stoop, and crouch. [Plaintiff] cannot kneel, crawl, or climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can understand,
remember, and carry out simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks. [Plaintiff] can relate to supervisors and co-workers
on a superficial work basis. [Plaintiff] can respond
appropriately to usual work situations. [Plaintiff] can have
no contact with the general public.
Id. at 649.
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any
past relevant work. Id. at 654. At step five,
relying on a vocational expert's (VE) testimony, the ALJ
found Plaintiff could perform other work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at
654-55. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act.
Id. at 655.
Claims Presented for Judicial Review
alleges the ALJ erred in: (1) relying on the VE's
testimony despite a conflict between the testimony and the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) job descriptions; (2)
evaluating the State agency psychologist's opinion; and
(3) failing to discuss significantly probative evidence.
See Pl.'s Br. at 14-28.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009); see
also Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir.
2008) (holding that the court only reviews an ALJ's
decision “to determine whether the factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether
the correct legal standards were applied” and in that
review, “we neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute
our judgment for that of the agency” (citations and