United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Edith Clayton 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 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 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-one years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 206). She has a high school
equivalent education and has worked as a receptionist,
dialysis technician, nurse aide, and light truck driver (Tr.
55, 240). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to
work since an amended onset date of August 20, 2015, due to
depression, high blood pressure, and tremors in her head and
neck (Tr. 38, 239).
In October 2015, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 (Tr. 206-14). Her application
was denied. ALJ James Bentley conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated December 27, 2016 (Tr. 19-28). The
Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's written
opinion represents the Commissioner's 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 the claimant could perform light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), except she could
understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions and
tasks with routine supervision; could relate to coworkers and
supervisors only on a superficial work basis; and could have
no work-related contact with the general public (Tr. 23). The
ALJ then concluded that although the claimant could not
return to her past relevant work, she was nevertheless not
disabled because there was other work she could perform in
the national economy, i. e., housekeeper/cleaner,
bottling line attendant, and small products assembler (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) account for her crying spells when forming the RFC, and
(ii) evaluate the opinion of treating physician Dr. Tayyaba
Ali. The undersigned Magistrate Judge finds these contentions
unpersuasive for the following reasons.
found the claimant had the severe impairments of major
depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and essential
hypertension, but that her cholecystitis/cholelithiasis was
nonsevere (Tr. 21-22). The relevant medical evidence related
to the claimant's mental impairments reveals that Dr.
Brian Allee treated the claimant for depression and anxiety
in August 2014 and December 2015 (Tr. 340-41, 438-39). In
August 2014, the claimant reported that she was significantly
worried about her husband's health and had taken
antidepressant medication in the past that was very effective
(Tr. 340). Dr. Allee noted the claimant was alert, pleasant,
cooperative, and appropriate, but a “little bit
emotional at times” (Tr. 340). In December 2015, the
claimant reported increased anxiety and ...