United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
ANNETTE L. NIKWEI, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY E. WEST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Annette L. Nikwei (the “Claimant”) requests
judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying Claimant's
application for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act. Claimant appeals the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) and asserts that the Commissioner
erred because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Claimant
was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, it is the
finding of this Court that the Commissioner's decision
should be and is 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 his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his 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, 416.920.
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is
limited to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997)(citation
omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has
been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to
require “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)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias
v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799,
800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the
record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the
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 800-01.
was 46 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
Claimant obtained her GED. Claimant has worked in the past as
a dietary aide. Claimant alleges an inability to work
beginning June 18, 2009 due to limitations resulting from
COPD, obesity, low back pain, dysthymia, anxiety, personality
disorder, and OCD.
March 17, 2010, Claimant protectively filed for disability
insurance benefits under Title II (42 U.S.C. § 401,
et seq.) and for supplemental security income
pursuant to Title XVI (42 U.S.C. § 1381, et
seq.) of the Social Security Act. Claimant's
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
After an administrative hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision on October
28, 2011. By Order and Judgment entered September 30, 2014,
this Court reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded the
case for further proceedings.
February 24, 2015, ALJ Edmund C. Werre conducted a second
administrative hearing on remand in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Claimant
failed to appear but the hearing was conducted with her
counsel present. On May 20, 2015, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision. In a rather detailed letter, the
Appeals Council denied review on June 1, 2016. As a result,
the decision of the ALJ represents the Commissioner's
final decision for purposes of further appeal. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
He determined that while Claimant suffered from severe
impairments, she did not meet a listing and retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
her past relevant work.
Alleged for Review
asserts the ALJ committed error in (1) failing to perform a
proper credibility analysis; and (2) failing to ...