United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
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 benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382. Defendant
has answered the Complaint and filed the administrative
record (hereinafter AR___), and the parties have briefed the
issues. The matter has been referred to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28
U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B). For the following reasons, it is
recommended the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
Administrative History and Final Agency Decision
applied for disability insurance benefits on February 9,
2015. AR 206-13. In his application, Plaintiff alleged he
became disabled on January 28, 2015, due to conditions
affecting feet, ankles, back, and both knees. Id. at
213, 230. The Social Security Administration denied
Plaintiff's application on June 26, 2015, see
Id. at 120, 121-32, and on reconsideration on September
21, 2015. Id. at 133, 134-46.
appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative
hearing conducted on July 8, 2016, before an Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ). Id. at 61-119. A vocational expert
(VE) testified at the hearing. Id. at 114-118. The
ALJ issued a decision in which he found Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
Id. at 36-56. Following the agency's
well-established sequential evaluation procedure, the ALJ
found at the first step that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 28, 2015.
Id. at 41. At the second step, the ALJ found
Plaintiff had severe impairments of “disorders of the
spine (cervical spine and lumbar spine with Schmorl's
node; mild multilevel degenerative disc disease);
osteoarthrosis and allied disorders; other and unspecified
arthropathies; lumbago; dysfunction of major joints (left
knee mild knee joint space narrowing), and obesity.”
Id. At the third step, the ALJ found 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. Id. at 43.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work except Plaintiff can
only occasionally climb ramps and stairs and must avoid the
climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. Id. at
44. Additionally, Plaintiff can frequently stoop and kneel
and occasionally crouch and crawl. Id.
on the VE's testimony as to the ability of a hypothetical
individual with Plaintiff's work history, age, education,
and the determined RFC, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could
perform his past relevant work as a mail handler.
Id. at 55-56. Based on this finding, the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as
defined by the Social Security Act, from January 28, 2015
through the date of the decision. Id. at 56.
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;
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir.
argues the ALJ failed to properly weigh the opinions and
statements of Plaintiff's treating physicians.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief (Doc. # 15) at 3-8. Plaintiff
also contends the ALJ did not properly consider the mental
health findings contained within the record. Id. at
8. Plaintiff asserts the ALJ did not include all of
Plaintiff's limitations into his RFC. Id. at
9-11. Finally, Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to address his
non-severe impairments. Id. at 11.
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) (citations and quotations
omitted). 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, quotations, and
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). Both the
“impairment” and the “inability” must
be expected to last not less than twelve months. Barnhart
v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212 (2002).
agency follows a five-step sequential evaluation procedure in
resolving the claims of disability applicants. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), (b)-(g). “If the
claimant is not considered disabled at step three, but has
satisfied her burden of establishing a prima facie case of
disability under steps one, two, and four, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show the claimant has the [RFC] to
perform other work in the national economy in view of her
age, education, and work experience.” Fischer-Ross
v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005).
“The claimant is entitled to disability benefits only
if he is not able to perform other work .” Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 142 (1987).
Treating Physicians' Opinions
begins with criticizing the ALJ's statement in her
decision that the record does not contain any treating source
statements. AR 54. On a related note, the ALJ also stated,
“The claimant's treating physicians did not impose
any limitations or restrictions on the claimant's ability
to perform basi[c] work activities.” Id. at
55. While the ALJ's language in each of these statements
is not entirely accurate, the Court is not tasked with
ascertaining whether each statement in the decision is
correct but instead, whether the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See Hamilton v.
Sec'y of ...