United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Michael Shane Moore requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
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.
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 forty years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 115). He has a high school
equivalent education and has worked as a semi-truck driver,
industrial truck mechanic, and industrial maintenance
repairer (Tr. 118, 131). The claimant alleges that he has
been unable to work since May 27, 2015, due to a back injury,
double lumbar fusion at ¶ 3-L5, hip and joint pain,
spinal nerve damage that causes a left foot burning
sensation, and arthritis (Tr. 315).
July 2015, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 264-71). His applications
were denied. ALJ John W. Belcher conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated April 5, 2017 (Tr. 90-103). The
Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's written
opinion represents the Commissioners' final decision for
purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. §§
of the Administrative Law Judge
ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work with occasional climbing stairs, balancing, bending,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling, but should avoid
climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolding (Tr. 93). The ALJ
then concluded that although the claimant could not return to
his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not disabled
because there was work he could perform in the national
economy, e. g., document specialist, touch-up
screener, and surveillance system monitor (Tr. 102-03).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) analyze the opinions of nurse practitioner Kelly Hokit
and physical therapist Christopher Ritchie, and (ii) evaluate
his subjective statements. The Court finds these contentions
unpersuasive for the following reasons.
found the claimant's obesity, degenerative disc disease
status post fusion, hip pain, and asthma/chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease were severe impairments; his
gastroesophageal reflux disease, hypertension, high
cholesterol, and tinnitus were nonsevere impairments; and his
sleep apnea and irritable bowel syndrome were not medically
determinable (Tr. 93). The medical evidence relevant to this
appeal reveals that on October 7, 2013, the claimant
underwent a discectomy and fusion at L4-5 and L5-S1, and a
laminectomy at L4-5 performed by Dr. Benjamin Benner and Dr.
Ryan Rahhal (Tr. 399, 406-10). At a follow-up appointment on
October 22, ...