United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant David Nelson requests judicial review of a denial of
benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he 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 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[.]” 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 years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 164). He completed eleventh grade
and has previously worked as a truck driver (Tr. 192, 411).
The claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since an
amended onset date of May 2, 2015, due to bipolar disorder,
diabetes, neuropathy, hearing loss, depression, and anxiety
(Tr. 160, 410).
December 18, 2014, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 384-95). His applications
were denied. ALJ Thomas John Wheeler conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated May 18, 2016 (Tr.
138-50). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's
written opinion represents the Commissioner's final
decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), i.
e., he 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 (Tr. 144). Additionally, he found that the
claimant could perform simple one to two step tasks with
routine supervision, adapt to a work setting and some changes
in a work setting, and interact appropriately with coworkers
and supervisors for incidental work purposes, but should
avoid contact with the public (Tr. 144). Lastly, the ALJ
found that the claimant had some difficulty with hearing and
could understand conversations at normal volume and rate, but
should avoid work around unprotected heights and dangerous
moving machinery (Tr. 144). The ALJ then concluded that
although the claimant could not return to his past relevant
work, he was nevertheless not disabled because there was work
that he could perform in the national economy, e.
g., bench assembler and small parts assembler (Tr.
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ
relied on vocational expert (“VE”) testimony at
step five that was inconsistent with the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”). More specifically,
he states that the RFC limitation of simple, one to two step
tasks with routine supervision is inconsistent with a
reasoning level of two. This contention does not have merit,
and the decision of the Commissioner must therefore be
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
bilateral knee joint dysfunction, lumbar degenerative disc
disease, diabetes mellitus, neuropathy, hearing loss,
tinnitus, hyperlipidemia, obesity, bipolar disorder,
personality disorder, and a history of polysubstance abuse
(in remission) (Tr. 140). The medical evidence relevant to
the claimant's mental impairments reflect that he
received treatment at Carl Albert Community Mental Health
Center (“CACMHC”) from July 2008 through June
2009 for bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (Tr.
621-26). The claimant indicated that he no longer wanted case
management services in June 2009 and his chart ...