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 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 benefits.
Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued
an unfavorable decision. (TR. 13-24). Subsequently, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (TR. 1-3).
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 19,
2015, her alleged onset date. (TR. 15). At step two, the ALJ
determined that Ms. Mulzet had the following severe
impairments: obesity; diabetes mellitus II; hypertension;
chronic headaches; complex partial seizure disorder; major
depressive disorder; and mild neurocognitive disorder. (TR.
15). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the
presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 16).
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Mulzet retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
she needs to avoid exposure to hazards, machinery and
heights; no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The
claimant is limited to simple tasks with routine supervision;
no more than occasional interaction with co-workers and
supervisors and no public interaction.
(TR. 18). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Mulzet
was unable to perform her past relevant work. (TR. 23). Thus,
the ALJ proceeded to step five and presented the RFC
limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether
there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform. (TR. 46-47). Given the limitations, the VE
identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles. (TR. 47). The ALJ adopted the VE's testimony and
concluded that Ms. Mulzet was not disabled at step five. (TR.
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, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019).
“Substantial evidence … is more than a mere
scintilla … and means only-such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct.
at 1154 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
the court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable
rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in
disability cases, the court will “neither reweigh the
evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the
agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201
(10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
appeal, Ms. Mulzet alleges the ALJ erred in evaluating
opinions from: (1) consultative examining psychologist, Dr.
Kara Rodgers and (2) State Agency psychologist, Dr. Lisa
Swisher. (ECF No. 13:3-11).
THE ALJ'S EVALUATION OF MEDICAL OPINIONS
ALJ: (1) committed legal error in evaluating the opinion of
Dr. Rodgers, but the error was harmless and (2) did not err
in evaluating the opinion from Dr. Swisher.
The ALJ's Duty to Evaluate Medical Opinions
must evaluate every medical opinion in the record, although
the weight given each opinion will vary according to the
relationship between the disability claimant and the medical
professional. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208,
1215 (10th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d). In
determining what weight to accord any medical opinion, an ALJ
(1) the length of the treatment relationship and the
frequency of examination;
(2) the nature and extent of the treatment relationship,
(3) the degree to which the physician's opinion is
supported by relevant evidence;
(4) the consistency between the opinion and the record as a
(5) whether or not the physician is a specialist in the area
upon which an ...