United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
Charles B. Goodwin, United States District Judge.
Arjuna Gandiva Whitehead 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
application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. Upon review of the
administrative record (Doc. No. 10, hereinafter “R.
”), and the arguments and authorities
submitted by the parties, the Court affirms the
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
was found disabled in December 2008 due to the limitations
caused by his schizophrenia. R. 16, 59. An agency
redetermination performed in 2015 found that Plaintiff had
shown medical improvement related to his ability to work, and
his disability benefits ceased in December 2015. R. 59.
Plaintiff protectively filed a new SSI application on January
7, 2016. R. 16, 159-68. Plaintiff initially alleged a
disability-onset date of July 1, 2008. R. 16, 159. Plaintiff
subsequently amended his alleged onset date to January 7,
2016. R. 16, 37. Following a denial of his application
initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was held before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on January 9,
2017. R. 31-58, 89-92, 98-100. In addition to Plaintiff, a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the
hearing. R. 53-55. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
March 30, 2017. R. 13-26.
Commissioner of Social Security 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. § 416.920. At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since his amended onset date. R. 18. At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe medically
determinable impairments of: schizoaffective disorder,
bipolar type; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”); and generalized anxiety disorder. R.
18. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff had the nonsevere
impairments of obesity, vision disorder, hypertension, and an
umbilical hernia. R. 18-19. 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. 19-20.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all his medically determinable
impairments. R. 20-25. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but
with the following non-exertional limitations: [Plaintiff]
can understand, remember and carry out simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks. [Plaintiff] can relate to supervisors and
co-workers on a superficial work basis. [Plaintiff] can
respond to usual work situations. [Plaintiff] can have no
contact with the general public.
R. 20. At step four, the ALJ considered the hearing testimony
of the VE and found that Plaintiff was not capable of
performing any past relevant work. R. 25.
five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in
view of his age, education, work experience, and RFC-could
perform. R. 25-26. Relying upon the VE's testimony
regarding the degree of erosion to the unskilled occupational
base caused by Plaintiff's additional limitations, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform the medium, unskilled
occupations of laundry worker and machine packager, and the
light, unskilled occupation of inspector/packer, and that
such occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy. R. 25-26, 53-54.
request for review by the SSA Appeals Council was denied on
October 26, 2017, and the unfavorable determination of the
ALJ stands as the Commissioner's final decision. R. 1-7;
20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
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 argues that the ALJ erred by (1) failing to
properly consider the functional limitations stemming from
Plaintiff's obesity and hernia, (2) failing to consider
functional limitations assessed by Plaintiff's physician
Matthew McTague, DO, (3) failing to comprehend the full
extent of the restrictions caused by Plaintiff's
schizophrenia and not assessing functional RFC limitations
consistent with Plaintiff's condition, and (4) improperly