United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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 denying Plaintiff's
application for disability insurance benefits under the
Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed
a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter
TR.__). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this
matter by a United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c).
parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now
at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and
the issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's application for benefits. Following an
administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 18-34). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3).
Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart,
431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity between her
amended onset date of August 21, 2012 and her date last
insured of December 31, 2015. (TR. 20). At step two, the ALJ
determined Ms. Clapper had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease; obesity; osteoarthritis;
osteoporosis; depressive disorder; and anxiety disorder. (TR.
20). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the
presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 21).
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Clapper retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
the claimant was able to occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant must have been allowed to
sit/stand alternatively once per hour for five minutes each
time. The work must have been limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks, free of production rate pace.
(TR. 24). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work. (TR. 32). As a
result, the ALJ made additional findings at step five. There,
the ALJ presented several limitations to a vocational expert
(VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the
national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR.
65-66).Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs
from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. (TR. 65-66). The
ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms.
Clapper was not disabled based on her ability to perform the
identified jobs. (TR. 33-34).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred: (1) at step three
and (2) in the consideration of certain evidence.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to
determin[e] whether the factual findings are 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).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted).
the court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable
rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in
disability cases, the court will “neither reweigh the
evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the
agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201
(10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Clapper alleges that the ALJ “improperly considered
critical medical evidence” which reflected that
Plaintiff met Listing 1.04(A). (ECF No. 12:2-3). The Court
Criteria at Step Three
three, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's
impairment is “equivalent to one of a number of listed
impairments that the Secretary acknowledged as so severe as
to preclude substantial gainful activity.” Clifton
v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). If this
standard is met, the claimant is considered per se
disabled. Knipe v. Heckler, 755 F.2d 141, 146 (10th
Cir. 1985). The question of whether a claimant meets or
equals a listed impairment is strictly a medical
determination. Ellison v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534,
536 (10th Cir. 1990); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1525(c)(3)-(4), 404.1526(b). “The claimant has the
burden at step three of demonstrating, through medical
evidence, that his impairments “meet all of
the specified medical criteria” contained in a
particular listing. Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. at
530 (emphasis in original). “An impairment that
manifests only some of those criteria, no matter how
severely, does not qualify.” Id.
the claimant has produced such evidence, the burden is on the
ALJ to identify and discuss any relevant listings.
Fisher-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 733 n. 3. In
doing so, the ALJ must weigh the evidence and make specific
findings to support the step three determination. Clifton
v. Chater, 79 F.3d at 1009.
1.04 outlines the requirements to establish whether a
presumptive disability exists in an individual with a
disorder of the spine. Listing 1.04(A) requires that the
claimant first establish that he has a disorder of the spine,
“resulting in compromise of a nerve root (including the
cauda equine) or the spinal ...