United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ladonna Gilchrist 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 applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434, and for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, id. §§ 1381-1383f. The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate
Judge. Upon review of the administrative record (Doc. No. 9,
hereinafter “R. ”),  and the arguments and
authorities submitted by the parties, the Court affirms the
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her DIB and SSI applications on November
28, 2012, alleging disability beginning October 12, 2011. R.
11, 200-18, 247. Following denial of her applications
initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was held before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on July 21,
2015. R. 31-53, 73-74, 105-06. The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on October 29, 2015. R. 8-30.
relevant here, the 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. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since October 12, 2011,
Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date. R. 13. At step
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of epilepsy and anxiety disorder. R. 13-18. The
ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's gastroesophageal
reflux disease was a medically determinable but nonsevere
impairment. R. 18. 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. 18-19.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of her medically
determinable impairments. R. 19-23. The ALJ found that
Plaintiff retained the RFC “to perform a full range of
work at all exertional levels” but with certain
no more than occasional climbing of ramps/stairs; no climbing
of ladders/ropes/scaffolds; needs to avoid exposure to
hazards, moving mechanical parts, unprotected heights; no
more than occasional handling, grasping, finger[ing], and
feeling with the non-dominant left hand; and is limited to
the performance of simple tasks and instructions.
R. 19-20. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work. R. 23.
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. 24-25. Relying upon the written interrogatory
answers supplied by a vocational expert regarding the degree
of erosion to the unskilled occupational base caused by
Plaintiff's additional limitations, see R.
328-36, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform light,
unskilled occupations such as sales attendant, children's
attendant, and blood-donor-unit assistant, and that such
occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy. R. 24-25. 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 Appeals Council was denied, and the
unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the
Commissioner's final decision. See R. 1-4; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 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 v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009).
“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 contends that the ALJ improperly considered
the opinion of examining physician Matthew Sleziak, DO, and
that this error resulted in Plaintiff's visual
limitations being erroneously omitted from the RFC.
See Pl.'s ...