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Bess-Beasley v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

March 19, 2019

DEMORNAI T. BESS-BEASLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KIMBERLY E. WEST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Demornai T. Bess-Beasley (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 finding of this Court that the Commissioner's decision should be and is 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 21 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Claimant completed her education through the ninth or tenth grade but dropped out after she encountered legal problems. She subsequently took GED classes. Claimant has worked in the past as a fast food employee, cook, ice cream maker, sandwich maker, and food bagger. Claimant alleges an inability to work beginning May 1, 2014 due to limitations resulting from bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, and mood swings.

         Procedural History

         On July 14, 2014, Claimant 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 12, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David Engel conducted an administrative hearing by video with Claimant appearing in Muskogee, Oklahoma and the ALJ presiding from Tulsa, Oklahoma. On October 13, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied review on August 7, 2017. As a result, the decision of the ALJ represents the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of further appeal. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         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, she did not meet a listing and retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of medium work with limitations.

         Errors Alleged for Review

         Claimant asserts the ALJ committed error in (1) failing to find Claimant's conditions meet a listing; (2) finding Claimant could perform work at step five which requires a reasoning level of two; and (3) finding jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy which Claimant could perform.

         Consideration ...


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