United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
M. PURCELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of
the final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying his
application for disability insurance (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income benefits (“SSI”)
under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1382. Defendant has answered
the Complaint and filed the administrative record
(hereinafter AR___), and the parties have briefed the issues.
The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). For
the following reasons, it is recommended that the
Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
Administrative History and Agency Decision
December 16, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed applications
for DIB and SSI alleging that he became disabled on December
31, 2008, due to mental issues, back pain, and bad knees. AR
16, 203, 208. At a hearing conducted before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff amended his alleged
onset date to December, 16, 2013. AR 33-34. A vocational
expert (“VE”) also testified at the hearing. The
ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Following the
agency's well-established sequential evaluation
procedure, the ALJ found at the first step that Plaintiff met
the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2013. The ALJ further found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since December 16, 2013, the amended alleged onset date. At
the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of cervical and
lumbar spines; osteoarthritis of knees status-post remote
right arthroscopy; major depressive disorder; anxiety
disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; post-traumatic stress
disorder; and amphetamine, marijuana, LSD, and alcohol
dependence in reported remission. At the third step, the ALJ
found that these impairments were not per se disabling as
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the requirements of
a listed impairment.
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at
the light exertional level in that he could lift up to 20
pounds with no more than frequent lifting or carrying of up
to 10 pounds; stand/walk 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday;
and sit 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday. The ALJ also
included additional limitations as follows:
[Plaintiff] is able to understand, remember, and carryout
simple and some complex instructions consistent with
semiskilled work that is repetitive and routine in nature and
able to relate and interact with co-workers and supervisors
on a work-related basis only with no to minimal interaction
with the general public. [Plaintiff] can adapt to a work
situation with these limitations/restrictions and his
medications would not preclude him from remaining reasonably
alert to perform required functions presented in a work
Based on this RFC finding and testimony regarding the
requirements of Plaintiff's previous work, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past
the fifth and final step of the required sequential analysis,
and relying on the VE's testimony as to the ability of a
hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's work history,
age, education, and RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was
capable of performing jobs that existed in the national
economy. These included work as a press machine operator,
production inspector, and office cleaner. Based on these
findings, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not been under
a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from
December 16, 2013, through the date of the decision.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
and therefore the ALJ's decision is the final decision of
the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.981, 416.1481; Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048,
1051 (10th Cir. 2009).
argues that the ALJ legally erred by failing to weigh the
medical opinion evidence under the correct legal standards.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief (Doc. # 15) at 5-14. Plaintiff
also asserts that the ALJ erred in determining that Plaintiff
can perform significant gainful activity. Pl.'s Br. at
General Legal Standards Guiding Judicial Review
Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision
is supported by substantial evidence in the record and
whether the correct legal standards were applied. Wilson
v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010);
Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.
2003). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d
1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007). The “determination of
whether the ALJ's ruling is supported by substantial
evidence must be based upon the record taken as a whole.
Consequently, [the Court must] remain mindful that evidence
is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in
the record.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052
(citations, internal quotation marks, and brackets omitted).
Social Security Act authorizes payment of benefits to an
individual with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. A
disability is an “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 (duration requirement), 416.909 (same).
Both the ...