United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
SHARON K. CORNELISON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Sharon K. Cornelison 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[.]" 42 U.S.C.
§ 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,
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 December 17, 1951, and was sixty-two
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 66).
She has a high school education, and has worked as a splicer
(Tr. 67, 81). The claimant alleges she has been unable to
work since an amended onset date of April 19, 2011, due to
low back problems, diabetes, liver problems, and high blood
pressure (Tr. 154, 189).
October 21, 2013, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Her application was denied.
ALJ Douglas S. Stults held an administrative hearing and
determined the claimant was not disabled in a written
decision dated March 5, 2015 (Tr. 28-38). The Appeals Council
denied review, so the ALJ's written decision represents
the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of this
appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). The ALJ then concluded that,
through the claimant's date last insured, December 31,
2011, she was not disabled because she could return to her
past relevant work as a splicer (Tr. 37-38).
claimant contends that the ALJ failed to properly: (i)
consider new evidence submitted to the Appeals Council, (ii)
account for her non-severe impairments in formulating her
RFC, and (iii) assess her credibility. The Court finds these
contentions unpersuasive for the following reasons.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, and
hypertension, but that the residual effects of her December
2010 left shoulder arthroscopy and degenerative disc disease
(status post lumbar discectomy and laminectomy) were
non-severe (Tr. 30-32). The medical record reveals that the
claimant often reported a history of depression and/or
anxiety and that she was currently taking an anti-depressant
medication to her providers, but there is no specific mental
health diagnosis until September 2013 (Tr. 413). On September
13, 2013, the claimant reported to Dr. Toridio Vasquez that
her mental health had been gradually improving, her symptoms
were relieved by medication, and ...