United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
MICHAEL G. COFFEY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Michael G. Coffey requests judicial review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
benefits under the Social Security Act. The claimant appeals
the decision of the Commissioner and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision should be 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 his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his 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.
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is
limited to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997) [citation
omitted]. The term substantial evidence has been interpreted
by the United States Supreme Court to require
“‘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). The Court may not reweigh the evidence nor substitute
its discretion for that of the agency. Casias v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 933 F.2d 799,
800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, 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 800-01.
claimant was fifty-three years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 26, 143). He completed high
school and has worked as a heat and air conditioner
technician (Tr. 19, 181). The claimant alleges inability to
work since May 31, 2016, due to his back, shoulders, and neck
claimant applied for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434, on June 17, 2016. His application was denied.
Following an administrative hearing, ALJ Susan W. Conyers
found that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion
dated August 17, 2017 (Tr. 11-21). The Appeals Council denied
review, so the ALJ's written opinion is the final
decision of the Commissioner for purposes of this appeal.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
She found that the claimant had the ability to perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), but that he
could only occasionally stoop, kneel crouch, and crawl (Tr.
16). The ALJ concluded that although the claimant could not
return to his past relevant work, he was not disabled because
there was work he could perform, i. e., service
dispatcher and calibration tech (Tr. 19-20).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
weigh the opinion of his treating physician, Dr. Robert
Remondino. This contention is not persuasive, and the
decision of the Commissioner should therefore be affirmed.
found the claimant had the severe impairments of disorders of
the spine (thoracic spine, lumbar spine, status post 360
degrees L4/L5 and L5/S1 discectomy and fusion), history of
lumbar fusion 2008, and obesity, as well as the nonsevere
impairments of hypertension and anxiety (Tr. 13-14). The
relevant medical evidence reflects that the claimant
underwent L4/L5 and L5/S1 anterior lumbar interbody fusion
and L4 to sacral posterolateral/facet fusion with placement
of Spire intersegmental fixation plate and L5/S1 facet screws
(Tr. 314-323). On February 22, 2016, the claimant's
neurosurgeon Dr. Robert ...