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Shipman v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

March 14, 2019

CHRISTOPHER W. SHIPMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KIMBERLY E. WEST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Christopher W. Shipman (the “Claimant”) requests judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying Claimant's application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act. Claimant appeals the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and asserts that the Commissioner erred because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Claimant was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, it is the recommendation of the undersigned that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability 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 his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. . .” 42 U.S.C. §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.[1]

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is limited to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v. Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997)(citation omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to require “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)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the 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 800-01.

         Claimant's Background

         Claimant was 54 years old at the time of the ALJ's latest decision. Claimant completed his high school education. Claimant has worked in the past as a dishwasher at a casino, housekeeper at a bingo hall, factory lineman, and retail maintenance clean up crew. Claimant alleges an inability to work beginning August 3, 2006 due to limitations resulting from emotional and psychological conditions.

         Procedural History

         On August 3, 2006, Claimant protectively filed for supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI (42 U.S.C. §1381, et seq.) of the Social Security Act. Claimant's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On September 5, 2008, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Lantz McClain conducted an administrative hearing in Poteau, Oklahoma. On November 5, 2008, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. After appeal, this Court reversed the decision and remanded the case on March 31, 2010.

         A second administrative hearing was conducted by ALJ Michael Kirkpatrick on January 4, 2011. The ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on February 10, 2011. The decision was again reversed by this Court on March 13, 2013.

         A third administrative hearing was conducted on September 12, 2014 by ALJ James Bentley. He entered an unfavorable decision on October 31, 2014. Defendant moved to reverse and remand the decision which was granted by this Court on August 27, 2015.

         A fourth administrative hearing was conducted by ALJ Lantz McClain on December 12, 2016 by video with Claimant appearing in Poteau, Oklahoma and the ALJ presiding from Tulsa, Oklahoma. A fourth unfavorable decision was entered on April 18, 2017. Claimant directly appealed the decision to this Court. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.984, 416.1484.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. He determined that while Claimant suffered from severe impairments, he retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of ...


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