United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Mary Ann Miles brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying Plaintiff's application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
a United States Magistrate Judge. Upon review of the
administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R.
”),  and the arguments and authorities
submitted by the parties, the Court affirms the
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
filed her SSI application on December 23, 2013, alleging
disability due to problems with her feet and knees. R. 11,
139, 156. Plaintiff ultimately alleged August 1, 2014, to be
her disability-onset date. R. 11, 26. Following denial of her
application initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was
held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
on June 5, 2015. R. 22-61, 72-74. In addition to Plaintiff, a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the
hearing. R. 22, 26-36. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
on June 23, 2015. R. 8-21.
Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process
to determine entitlement to disability benefits. See Wall
v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009); 20
C.F.R. § 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since filing her application. R. 13. At step two, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
osteoarthritis of both knees and obesity. The ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff's diabetes was nonsevere in
nature and that Plaintiff had no medically determinable
impairment to her hands. R. 13. At step three, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff's condition did not meet or equal any of
the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 13-14.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of her medically
determinable impairments. R. 14-16. The ALJ found that
Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light work, i.e.: “to
lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently; stand and/or walk for about 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday; and sit for about 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday.” R. 14 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b)).
At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past
relevant work. R. 16.
five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in
view of her age, education, work experience, and RFC-could
perform. R. 17. Relying upon the VE's testimony regarding
the degree of erosion to the unskilled light occupational
base caused by Plaintiff's additional limitations, the
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform light occupations
such as food preparer and bench assembler,  and that such
occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy. R. 17. Therefore, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had not been disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act during the relevant time period. R.
request for review by the SSA Appeals Council was denied, and
the unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the
Commissioner's final decision. See R. 1-5; 20
C.F.R. § 416.1481.
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether
correct legal standards were applied. Poppa, 569
F.3d at 1169. “Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331
F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “A decision is not based on substantial
evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record
or if there is a mere scintilla of evidence supporting
it.” Branum v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d 1268, 1270
(10th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
court “meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole,
” including any evidence “that may undercut or
detract from the ALJ's findings, ” “to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks
omitted). While a reviewing court considers whether the
Commissioner followed applicable rules of law in weighing
particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court
does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511
F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008).
action, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's RFC determination
is not supported by substantial evidence and that, in light
of the allegedly-proper finding that Plaintiff can only
perform sedentary work, a determination of
“disabled” was required upon application of the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the “Grids, ”
see 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpart P app. 2).
See Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. 15) at 9-19.
Whether the RFC Determination Is Based on Proper Legal
Standards and Supported by Substantial Evidence
presents three challenges to the ALJ's RFC findings. The
undersigned addresses each below.
The ALJ's Evaluation of the Consulting