United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Thomas Kozicki 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
(“SSA”) denying Plaintiff's application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
United States Magistrate Judge. Upon review of the
administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R.
”), and the arguments and authorities submitted by the
parties, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed his DIB application on August 19, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of August 1, 2011. R. 24,
182-88. Following denial of his application initially and on
reconsideration, a hearing was held before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) on August 11, 2015. R. 41-67,
96-100, 110-112. In addition to Plaintiff, a vocational
expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. R. 62-64.
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 9, 2015.
relevant here, the Commissioner uses a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine entitlement to disability
benefits. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052
(10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since his alleged onset date of August 1,
2011. R. 26. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
had the severe medically determinable impairments of
right-knee osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease of the
cervical and lumbar spine, asthma, and hearing loss in the
left ear with mild hearing loss in the right ear. R. 26-27.
At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's condition
did not meet or equal any of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. R. 27-28.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of his medically
determinable impairments. R. 28-33. The ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the RFC “to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), ” except that Plaintiff
can stand and walk 30 minutes at a time, up to 6 hours in an
8 hour day, and sit (at least) 6 hours in an 8 hour workday;
[Plaintiff] can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, and climb ramps/stairs; [Plaintiff] cannot
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; [Plaintiff] should avoid
exposure to fumes, odors, gases, poor ventilation, and
respiratory irritants; [Plaintiff] would need to avoid loud
R. 28. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable
to perform his past relevant work but had acquired work
skills from his past work. R. 33-34; see also R.
five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in
view of his age, education, work experience, and RFC-could
perform. R. 34. Relying upon the VE's testimony, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff could perform light, semiskilled
occupations such as mobile lounge driver and rental-car
deliverer, as well as the light, unskilled occupation of
office helper. R. 34; see R. 63-64. Therefore, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant
time period. R. 35.
request for review by the SSA Appeals Council was denied, and
the unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the
Commissioner's final decision. See R. 1-6; 20
C.F.R. § 404.981.
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether
correct legal standards were applied. Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758,
760 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“A decision is not based on substantial evidence if it
is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is
a mere scintilla of evidence supporting it.” Branum
v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d 1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The court
“meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, ”
including any evidence “that may undercut or detract
from the ALJ's findings, ” “to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.” Wall,
561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). While a
reviewing court considers whether the Commissioner followed
applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of
evidence in disability cases, the court does not reweigh the
evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272
(10th Cir. 2008).
argues that a disparity exists between the RFC assessed by
the ALJ and the medical opinion reached by Gregory Zeiders,
DO: namely, that the ALJ assessed that Plaintiff could
perform a limited range of light work, which generally
requires the ability to lift 20 pounds, but Dr. Zeiders
opined that Plaintiff could lift only five pounds.
See Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. 14) at
Plaintiff faults the ALJ for assigning Dr. Zeiders'