United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the Report and Recommendation of United States
Magistrate Judge Bernard M. Jones recommending affirmance of
the Commissioner's decision to deny Plaintiff disability
insurance benefits ("DIB"). Doc. 17. Plaintiff
objected, arguing that the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") failed to consider certain evidence
regarding her obesity, use of a cane, and other ailments in
finding Plaintiff not "disabled" under Title II of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
423(d)(1)(A). Doc. 18. Defendant responded that the ALJ's
findings were supported by substantial evidence in the
record. Doc. 21. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B),
the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation de novo in
light of Plaintiff s objections and ADOPTS the Report in its
entirety. The decision of the Social Security Administration
("SSA") is AFFIRMED.
issued a decision on February 20, 2015, that Plaintiff has
not been disabled since she applied for DIB on May 28, 2013.
Social Security Administration Record ("AR, " Doc.
10) 10. She followed the SSA's five-step disability
evaluation. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a); see
Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir.
2005). The ALJ first found that Plaintiff has not engaged in
"substantial gainful activity since . . . [her]
application date." AR 12. The second and third steps
entailed ALJ analysis of Plaintiff s SSA-defined "severe
impairments, " which include "status post left knee
replacement; degenerative disc disease, plantar fasciitis,
asthma, and depression." AR 12-14. Plaintiff also
experiences non-severe obesity and hypertension. AR 12.
Notably, the ALJ relied on Plaintiffs silence at the social
security hearing regarding obesity and the absence of
evidence to substantiate that obesity poses "any
specific or quantifiable impact on [her] pulmonary,
musculoskeletal, endocrine, or cardiac functioning."
the ALJ found that Plaintiff possesses the residual function
capacity ("RFC") to "perform a reduced range
of sedentary work." AR 14.
[S]he can lift and/or carry up to 10 pounds; stand and/or
walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday; and sit for about 6
hours in an 8-hour workday. She can occasionally stoop; must
avoid more than occasional exposure to respiratory irritants;
can understand and complete simple and some complex
instructions as in semi-skilled work; can relate to others on
a superficial work basis; and can adapt to a work situation.
Id. In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ considered
Plaintiffs obesity (AR 12), testimony at the hearing (AR
25-62), remote history of knee replacement and degenerative
disc disease (AR 66-85), psychological evaluation by Dr.
Scott (AR 310-14), consultative examination by Dr.
Christensen (AR 316-28), emergency room visits for foot pain
(AR 329-41) and a respiratory infection (AR 342-49), visits
to the Clinton Free Clinic (AR 297-308, 350-51), work record
(AR 226), failure to seek free care for reported ailments
during extensive periods (AR 14-18), and the State
Agency's psychological and physical medical experts (AR
the ALJ found that although Plaintiffs RFC prevents her from
continuing past relevant work as a "dietary aide, home
health aid, and babysitter, " there are "jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy"
that Plaintiff can perform. AR 18-20 (quoting 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.965, 416.969, 416.969(a)). Specifically,
Plaintiff can perform three jobs: thread separator,
inspector, or cuff folder. AR 19. The ALJ therefore found
Plaintiff not disabled and the Commissioner adopted this
finding following Plaintiffs unsuccessful appeal.
Standard of Review
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether substantial evidence in the record supports the
ALJ's factual findings and whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards. Andrade v. Sec 'y of Health
& Human Servs., 985 F.2d 1045, 1047 (10th Cir.
1993). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion, " Fowler v. Bowen, 876 F.2d 1451,
1453 (10th Cir. 1989), and "requires more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance. " Lax v.
Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007).
"Evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by
other evidence in the record or constitutes mere
conclusion." Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257,
1261-62 (10th Cir. 2005) (quoting Musgrave v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992)). The
court "meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole,
including anything that may undercut or detract from the
ALJ's findings in order to determine if the
substantiality test has been met." Flaherty v.
Astrue, 515 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Grogan, 499 F.2d at 1262). While the Court
"considers] whether the ALJ followed the 'specific
rules of law that must be followed in weighing particular
types of evidence in disability cases, ' . . . [the
Court] will not reweigh the evidence or substitute [its]
judgment for the Commissioner's." Hackett v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Reyes v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 242, 244 (10th Cir. 1988)).
alleges that the ALJ committed several errors in finding
Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. The
first concerns the treatment of obesity in the ALJ's Step
2 determination, and the rest concern Plaintiffs RFC. The
Court will address each in turn and then Plaintiffs remaining
objections to Judge Jones's Report and Recommendation.
argues that the ALJ erred at Step 2 by finding Plaintiffs
obesity not "severe" and by considering the
condition in a "boilerplate and completely conclusory
fashion." Plaintiffs Opening Brief, Doc. 12, at 3.
First, the ALJ clearly considered obesity, and the Court