United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Vickie Lynette Duncan requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she 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 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[.]” 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 September 21, 1961, and was fifty-four
years old at the time of the most recent administrative
hearing (Tr. 218). She completed tenth grade, and has worked
as a driver, convenience store manager, sales clerk, cashier
II, and routine office clerk (Tr. 247, 517). The claimant
alleges she has been unable to work since December 25, 2009,
due to bipolar disorder, manic depressive disorder,
emphysema, chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder
(“COPD”), acid reflux, and anxiety (Tr.
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, on April 15, 2011 (Tr. 218-27). Her applications
were denied. ALJ Bernard Porter conducted an administrative
hearing and found that the claimant was not disabled in a
written opinion dated January 24, 2013 (Tr. 17-33). The
Appeals Council denied review, but this Court granted the
Commissioner's Motion to Reverse and Remand for Further
Administrative Proceedings Pursuant to Sentence Four of the
Social Security Act in Case No. CIV-14-451-FHS-KEW, and
remanded the case to the ALJ on June 3, 2015 (Tr. 738-40).
While her first applications were pending, the claimant filed
new applications on August 21, 2014, and on August 22, 2014,
which were also denied (Tr. 880-900). Having received this
Court's June 2015 remand, the Appeals Council
consolidated the claimant's claims and remanded the case
to an ALJ on June 12, 2015 (Tr. 742-45). On remand, ALJ
Deirdre O. Dexter held an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated July 29, 2016 (Tr. 443-66). The claimant did
not file written exceptions to the Appeals Council
challenging the ALJ's July 2016 decision, and the Appeals
Council did not assume jurisdiction, so the ALJ's July
2016 decision is the final decision of the Commissioner for
purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. §§
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
She found that the claimant had the ability to perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) with occasional climbing ramps and stairs,
stooping, and crouching, and never climbing ropes, ladders,
or scaffolds, kneeling, or crawling (Tr. 454). The ALJ
further found the claimant should never be exposed to
unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts, and should
not do a job involving concentrated exposure to dust, odors,
fumes or other pulmonary irritants, extreme heat, extreme
cold, humidity, or wetness (Tr. 454). As to the
claimant's psychologically based limitations, the ALJ
found she could understand, remember, and carry out detailed
but uninvolved instructions, make simple work related
decisions, interact occasionally with supervisors as required
to receive work instructions, work in proximity to
co-workers, but should have no more than occasional direct
work interaction with them, and could never interact with the
general public (Tr. 454). The ALJ then concluded that
although the claimant could not return to her past relevant
work, she was nevertheless not disabled because there was
work that she could perform in the national economy, e.
g., inspector packer, electrical accessory assembler,
and small product assembler (Tr. 464-66).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to develop
the record regarding her COPD through an additional pulmonary
function study. In support, she specifically asserts that
Program Operations Manual System (“POMS”) DI
24540.001, issued by the Social Security Administration,
required additional pulmonary function testing, and that the
ALJ's reasons for not obtaining a second study were
insufficient and factually inaccurate. The Court finds these
contentions unpersuasive for the following reasons.
found the claimant had the severe impairments of COPD,
degenerative joint disease of the bilateral knees, modest
degenerative changes in the bilateral hips, hypertension,
obesity, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and
substance abuse disorder (Tr. 446). The medical evidence as
to the claimant's breathing impairment reveals that
providers at Mercy Health Clinic consistently prescribed her
a bronchodilator between December 2009 and November 2014 (Tr.
1208-225, 1260). A nurse practitioner at Mercy Health Clinic