United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
SONYA W. PRICE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Sonya W. Price 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 years old at the time of the most recent
administrative hearing (Tr. 45). She has a high school
education and has worked as a home health aide (Tr. 46, 220).
The claimant alleges that she has been unable to work since
September 15, 2010, due to pseudogout, arthritis, bursitis,
anxiety, and depression (Tr. 384).
September 15, 2011, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 (Tr. 314-18). Her application
was denied. ALJ Larry D. Shepherd conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated May 30, 2013 (Tr. 81-91). The Appeals
Council denied review, but the claimant appealed to this
Court and the case was remanded on July 6, 2015, at the
request of the Commissioner and pursuant to the sixth
sentence of 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for consideration of
evidence from Carl Albert Indian Hospital dated October 6,
2011, through February 9, 2012 (Tr. 99-101). On remand, ALJ
Larry D. Shepherd conducted a second administrative hearing
and again determined that the claimant was not disabled in a
written opinion dated January 26, 2017 (Tr. 11-28). The
Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's January 2017
written opinion represents the Commissioners' final
decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that through the date last insured, the claimant had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform a limited range of sedentary work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(a), i. e., she could lift and
carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds
frequently; sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday;
stand and walk for at least two hours in an eight-hour
workday; frequently handle and finger; and occasionally climb
ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and reach
overhead; but could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
and must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, dusts,
fumes, gases, odors, and poor ventilation (Tr. 18). Due to
psychologically-based limitations, the ALJ found the claimant
could understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks; relate to supervisors and coworkers on
a superficial work basis; and respond in an appropriate
manner to usual work situations; but could have no contact
with the general public (Tr. 18). The ALJ then concluded that
although the claimant could not return to her past relevant
work, she was nevertheless not disabled through December 31,
2014, the date last insured, because there was work she could
perform in the national economy, e. g., address
clerk, document preparer, and product inspector (Tr. 26-28).
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ erred
in evaluating her subjective reports of pain. The Court finds
this contention unpersuasive for the following reasons.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, bursitis, right
foot disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, asthma, hypertension, peripheral edema,
rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, fibromyalgia, morbid
obesity, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder with
panic attacks, but that her hearing loss was nonsevere (Tr.
14). The relevant medical record reveals that the claimant
regularly consulted with family practice providers at
Chickasaw Nation Medical Center between January 2011 and
January 2015 for joint pain in her hands, right shoulder,
knees, and feet (Tr. 551-59, 828-905). The various
assessments relevant to her disability claim included
shoulder pain, arthralgias, osteoarthritis of the right and
left knee, rheumatoid arthritis, rotator cuff injury to right
shoulder, and obesity. Her treatment consisted largely of
medication management, although she received steroid
injections in January 2012, April 2012, July 2012, and
October 2014 (Tr. 836, 886-87, 898). After medication
modifications due to side effects in February 2012, April
2012, and November 2012, the claimant generally ...