United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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 denying Plaintiff's
application for disability insurance benefits under the
Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed
a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter TR.
___). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this
matter by a United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c).
parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now
at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and
the issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
(SSA) denied Plaintiff's application for disability
insurance benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was under a disability, as defined by the Social
Security Act, from October 13, 2014 through November 4, 2015,
at which time Plaintiff's disability ended due to medical
improvement. (TR. 34, 35). The ALJ found that Plaintiff had
not become disabled again since November 5, 2015. (TR.
40-41). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. (TR. 1-6). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became
the final decision of the Commissioner.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart,
431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 13,
2014, the date Plaintiff became disabled. (TR. 26). At step
two, the ALJ determined that, from October 13, 2014 through
November 4, 2015, the period during which Plaintiff was under
a disability, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
right leg amputation, degenerative disc disease, diabetes,
and obesity. (TR. 26). At step three, the ALJ found that from
October 13, 2014 through November 4, 2015, the severity of
Plaintiff's right leg amputation met the criteria of
section 105.B, one of the presumptively disabling impairments
listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the
Listings). (TR. 33). Accordingly, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was under a disability from October 13, 2014
through November 4, 2015. (TR. 34).
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's disability did not
continue through the date of the decision, she proceeded to
the additional eight-step evaluation process for determining
medical improvement. See Newbold v. Colvin, 718 F.3d
1257, 1261, 1262 (10th Cir. 2013) (describing the process for
evaluating disability claims when a medical improvement has
occurred); 20 C.F.R. § 1594(f). Having previously found
that Plaintiff was not engaged in substantial gainful
activity, at step two the ALJ determined that beginning
November 5, 2015, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
Listing. (TR. 34). At steps three and four, the ALJ
determined that medical improvement had occurred on November
4, 2015, and the improvement was related to Plaintiff's
ability to work. (TR. 35). The ALJ found that Plaintiff had
not developed any new impairment since November 4, 2015 and,
thus, Plaintiff's current severe impairments were the
same as during the period from October 13, 2014 through
November 4, 2015. (TR. 34).
next found that Plaintiff was not capable of performing his
past relevant work. (TR. 39). The ALJ further concluded that,
beginning November 5, 2015, Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work, with the
following additional limitations:
He can lift, carry, push, or pull ten pounds occasionally and
less than that frequently. [Plaintiff] can stand or walk two
out of eight hours total. He can sit six out of eight hours
total. [Plaintiff] uses a cane for walking and balance.
[Plaintiff] should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds
nor kneel, crouch, or crawl. [Plaintiff] occasionally can
climb stairs, balance, or stoop. He occasionally can operate
foot pedals with the right lower extremity.
this RFC, the ALJ made additional findings at step eight. The
ALJ consulted with a vocational expert (VE) to determine
whether there were other jobs in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform. Given the limitations presented by
the ALJ, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles. (TR. 40). Relying upon the testimony of
the VE and based on his ability to perform the identified
jobs, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's disability ended
on November 5, 2015, and he had not become disabled again
since that date. (TR. 40).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to
determin[e] whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct
legal standards were applied.” Wilson v.
Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010). Under the
“substantial evidence” standard, a court looks to
an existing administrative record and asks whether it
contains “sufficien[t] evidence” to support the
agency's factual determinations. Biestek v.
Berryhill, -- U.S. --, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019).
“Substantial evidence . . . is more than a mere
scintilla . . . ...