United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Clayton Dale Nichols 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 that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
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 twenty-eight years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 47, 205). He has a high school
education and no past relevant work (Tr. 34, 51, 66). The
claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since
October 15, 2013, due to cervical dystonia (Tr. 218).
August 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. 205-12). His applications
were denied. ALJ Michael E. Finnie conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated August 24, 2017 (Tr.
20-36). 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.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a),
416.967(a), i. e., he could lift/carry twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently, and could
sit/stand/walk about six hours out of an eight-hour work day,
but could have no more than occasional contact with the
general public (Tr. 27). The ALJ then concluded that the
claimant was not disabled because there was work he could
perform in the national economy, i. e., handworker,
line operator, and mail folding machine operator (Tr. 34-36).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
evaluate the opinions of his treating physicians, Dr. Jose
Manus and Dr. Bharathy Sundaram. The Court finds the
claimant's contention unpersuasive for the following
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
dystonia, spasmodic torticollis, depressive disorder, and
anxiety disorder, but that his obesity was nonsevere (Tr.
23). The relevant medical records reveal that the
claimant's primary care provider treated him for
spasmodic torticollis in January 2014 and for dystonia in
April 2014 and June 2014 (Tr. 322-25). January 2014 CT scans
of the claimant's brain and cervical spine were normal
apart from narrowing of the C5-6 disc ...