United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MARGARET A. CHAPMAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN United States District Judge.
Margaret A. Chapman 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 applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434. Upon review of the administrative record (Doc. No.
12, hereinafter “R. ”),  and the arguments and
authorities submitted by the parties, the Court affirms the
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her DIB application on May 31, 2012, and
ultimately alleged that her disability began on that same
date. R. 44-45, 250-51, 295. Following denial of her
application initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was
held before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
on April 16, 2014. R. 62-78, 93, 103. After the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision, Plaintiff sought and was granted review
by the SSA Appeals Council. R. 132-36. The Appeals Council
remanded the case, citing multiple issues that required
resolution. R. 133-35. Following further administrative
proceedings and a second hearing before the same ALJ,
Plaintiff's DIB application was denied for a second time
on July 29, 2016. R. 20-38, 39-61.
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 May 31, 2012, the alleged disability-onset date. R. 25.
At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of status post back fusion, obesity, and anxiety.
R. 25. 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. 25-27.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all her medically determinable
impairments. R. 27-31. The ALJ found:
[Plaintiff] has the [RFC] to perform sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she can occasionally
stoop, crouch, and kneel. She can understand, remember and
carry out simple instructions.
At step four, the ALJ considered the testimony provided by a
vocational expert (“VE”) at the second hearing
and found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past
relevant work. R. 31-32.
five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in
view of her age, education, work experience, and RFC-could
perform. R. 32-33. Relying again upon the VE's testimony
regarding the degree of erosion to the unskilled sedentary
occupational base caused by Plaintiff's additional
limitations, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform
unskilled sedentary occupations such as credit-card clerk,
information clerk, or document preparer, and that such
occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy. R. 32-33.
therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not been disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the
relevant period. R. 33. Plaintiff's 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. 12-17; 20 C.F.R. §
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).
action, Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's evaluation, for
purposes of determining the RFC, of Plaintiff's