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
applications for disability insurance and supplemental
security income benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434.
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 that the
Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
Administrative History and Agency Decision
applications, Plaintiff alleged that he was disabled
beginning on October 29, 2012. (AR 17, 275, 279, 332, 376,
378). Plaintiff alleged that he was disabled due to asthma,
degenerative disc disease of the back, sciatica, anxiety,
panic attacks, major depression, bipolar disorder, restless
leg syndrome, insomnia, and attention deficit disorder. (AR
335). Plaintiff has a 12th grade education and
previously worked as a supply room clerk, inventory control
clerk, and a laborer. (AR 26, 70, 343-350). Plaintiff's
medical record reveals that he has received treatment for
musculoskeletal impairments and underwent surgery for an
ankle injury. (AR 430-459, 478-479, 488-537, 560-563).
consultative examination in June 2016, Plaintiff stated that
he has never received counseling services or inpatient
treatment for his mental health impairments. (AR 578).
However, Plaintiff was involuntarily hospitalized in January
2014 after threatening his doctor. (AR 23, 472, 474, 482).
Plaintiff also testified during the hearing that he had been
hospitalized on four or five occasions “years
ago” due to mental health problems. (AR 48-49).
appeared at an administrative hearing conducted on April 26,
2016 before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jodi
B. Levine. (AR 34-76). At this hearing, Plaintiff
testified concerning his usual daily activities, symptoms,
functional abilities, medications, and medical treatment. A
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified. On
August 25, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiff's applications for benefits. (AR 28).
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process,
required by agency regulations, to determine whether
Plaintiff had been disabled at any time during the relevant
period. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729,
731 (10th Cir. 2005) (explaining process); see also
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920. At step one, the
ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
employment since his alleged onset date. (AR 19). At step
two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
degenerative joint and disc disease, asthma, and depression.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. part
404, subpart P, appendix 1. (AR 20-21).
next step, the ALJ considered the medical and nonmedical
evidence in the record and determined Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
work at the light exertional level; however, the ALJ found
Plaintiff could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
could stand and/or walk up to one hour continuously or sit up
to one hour continuously with the change of position
occurring at the workstation without the need for a break;
could understand, remember and carry out simple and detailed
instructions with only occasional interaction with co-workers
and supervisors and no interaction with the general public.
four of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ relied on
the hearing testimony of the VE, who, in turn, relied on the
description of Plaintiff's past relevant work contained
in the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”). Taking into account
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC for
work, the ALJ found at step four that Plaintiff was not
capable of performing his past relevant work as a laborer,
inventory control clerk, and a supply room clerk. (AR 26).
five, however, the ALJ relied on the testimony from the VE
and found Plaintiff could perform other light, unskilled jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
including small parts assembler, hand packer, and mail
sorter. (AR 26-27).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the
ALJ's decision on July 7, 2017. (AR 1-6). Therefore, the
ALJ's decision constitutes 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.
raises several claims in support of reversing the
Commissioner's decision. Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. 19) at
2-12. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ (1)
improperly evaluated the opinion of consultative examiner
Taimur Paracha, MD, and (2) improperly analyzed the evidence
concerning Plaintiff's mental impairments. Id.
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]