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Priddy v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

September 12, 2019

MICHALE G. PRIDDY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,[1] Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEVEN P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The claimant Michale G. Priddy 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.

         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.[2]

         Section 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 800-01.

         Claimant's Background

         The claimant was forty-five years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 37). He has a high school education and has worked as a fast food cook (Tr. 38, 53, 181). The claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since January 1, 2014, due to diabetes, stage four kidney disease, fatigue, nervousness, tremors, and dizziness (Tr. 180).

         Procedural History

         On January 26, 2016, the claimant applied for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 150-58). His application was denied. ALJ Derek N. Phillips conducted an administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated April 18, 2017 (Tr. 16-28). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's written opinion is the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. He found the claimant retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b) (Tr. 22). 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., packer and assembler (Tr. 26-28).

         Review

         The claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly: (i) analyze the opinion of treating physician Dr. Michael Irvin, and (ii) evaluate his subjective statements. The Court finds these contentions unpersuasive for the following reasons.

         The ALJ found that the claimant had the severe impairments of chronic kidney disease (stage four), diabetes with neuropathy, hypertension, and degenerative disc disease of the thoracic spine, but that his obesity, anemia, and anxiety were nonsevere (Tr. 18-19). The relevant medical records reveal that Dr. Irvin regularly treated the claimant for hypertension and diabetes from March 2014 through December 2016 (Tr. 345-61, 421-33, 478-82). In September 2015, the claimant reported weakness and moderately intense tremors several times per day, and Dr. ...


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