United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
RITA C. HILL-WILSON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Rita C. Hill-Wilson requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
Security Law and Standard of Review
under the Social Security Act is defined as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A
claimant is disabled under the Social Security Act
“only if h[er] physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that [s]he is not only
unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering
h[er] age, education, and work experience, engage in any
other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy[.]” Id. § 423 (d)(2)(A).
Social security regulations implement a five-step sequential
process to evaluate a disability claim. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
405(g) limits the scope of judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to two inquiries: whether the
decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether
correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997).
Substantial evidence is “‘more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971), quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938); see also Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). The Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its discretion for
the Commissioner's. See Casias v. Secretary of Health
& Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir.
1991). But the Court must review the record as a whole, and
“[t]he substantiality of evidence must take into
account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its
weight.” Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340
U.S. 474, 488 (1951); see also Casias, 933 F.2d at
claimant was fifty-three years old at the time of the most
recent administrative hearing (Tr. 346). She completed two
years of college, and has previously worked as a filler,
bottling line attendant, personal care aide, and tax preparer
(Tr. 162, 365-366). The claimant alleges that she was unable
to work from June 9, 2010 through September 14, 2014, due to
depression, anxiety, back pain, and ringing in her ears (Tr.
July 11, 2011, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434. Her application was denied. ALJ Richard
A. Kallsnick conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated January 10, 2013 (Tr. 39-48). The Appeals
Council denied review, but this Court reversed in No.
CIV-14-368-FHS-KEW and remanded to the ALJ for further
proceedings on March 30, 2016 (Tr. 404-419). On remand, ALJ
B.D. Crutchfield conducted a second administrative hearing
and again determined that the claimant was not disabled, for
a closed period from June 9, 2010 through September 14, 2014.
The Appeals Council again denied review, so ALJ
Crutchfield's opinion is the final decision of the
Commissioner for purposes of this appeal. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
She found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a range of light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), i. e.,
she could lift/carry/push/pull twenty pounds occasionally and
ten pounds frequently, stand/walk for six hours in an
eight-hour workday, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday. Additionally, she found that the claimant could
perform simple tasks and relate to supervisors and co-workers
on a superficial work basis, but that she could have no
contact with the public (Tr. 318). The ALJ then concluded
that although the claimant could not return to her past
relevant work, she was nevertheless not disabled because
there was work that she could perform, e. g.,
mailroom clerk, laundry sorter, and assembler (Tr. 326-327).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly consider the opinion of her treating psychiatrist,
and (ii) failing to identify jobs she could perform in light
of the assigned RFC. Neither of these contentions have merit,
and the decision of the Commissioner should therefore be
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
anxiety, depression, obesity, and degenerative disc disease
(Tr. 316). The medical evidence relevant to the
claimant's mental impairment reflect that she received
treatment at CREOKS Mental Health Center, with Dr. Vanessa
Werlla. Treatment records reflect the claimant was assessed
with neurotic depression in ...