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Zachry v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

September 3, 2019

COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         The claimant Randall Louis Zachry 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.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability 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.[1]

         Judicial 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's Background

         The claimant was forty-seven years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 27). He completed high school and has worked as a truck driver and forklift driver (Tr. 21, 181). The claimant alleges inability to work since his application date of February 11, 2015, due to a number of impairments including an aneurysm behind his heart, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, possible hernias, gout, reconstructed acl, depression, and anxiety (Tr. 180).

         Procedural History

         The claimant applied for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85, on February 11, 2015. His application was denied. Following an administrative hearing, ALJ Kevin Batik found that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated March 21, 2017 (Tr. 15-23). 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. § 416.1581.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. He found that the claimant had the ability to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a), but that he could understand, remember, and carry out only simple tasks and instructions (Tr. 19). The ALJ concluded that even though the claimant could not return to his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not disabled because there was work he could perform, i. e., callout operator, patcher, or table worker (Tr. 21-22).


         The claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to discuss evidence contrary to his findings, specifically evidence related to his cardiac impairments, ACL repair, and subjective statements made by the claimant and his father. None of these contentions are ultimately persuasive, and the decision of the Commissioner should therefore be affirmed.

         The ALJ found the claimant had the severe impairments of hypertensive vascular disease, hypertension, gout, and obesity (Tr. 17). The medical evidence in the record reflects that the claimant was hospitalized in April 2014 with an acute onset of back pain and uncontrolled hypertension and discharged four days later with a diagnosis of stable retroperitoneal hematoma, which had been diagnosed with a CT of the abdomen and pelvis (Tr. 237-242, 252). Although the claimant underwent cardiovascular testing, angiograms and echocardiograms were normal at that time (Tr. 253-261, 348-350). The discharge instructions stated that the claimant was to avoid heavy weight lifting, moving large furniture, and trauma to the back, and that he was to consume a heart healthy diet (Tr. 238). In September 2014, the claimant underwent a disability determination through the state of Oklahoma, with Dr. William Cooper, D.O. Dr. Cooper noted that the claimant's blood pressure was 162/110, and that the claimant had pain with range of motion testing of both knees and fingers in both hands (Tr. 283). He assessed the claimant with cardiac aneurysm, uncontrolled hypertension, gout, possible major depression with psychotic ...

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