United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Donald Ray Bishop 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-eight years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 35). He completed ninth grade and
has worked as a heavy equipment operator (Tr. 37, 49-50). The
claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since an
amended onset date of September 19, 2015, due to diabetes,
high blood pressure, depression, neuropathy, memory loss,
lack of reading comprehension, dyslexia, obesity, vision
problems, and back problems (Tr. 34, 168, 178).
September 2015, the claimant applied for supplemental
security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 155-60).
His application was denied. ALJ James Linehan held an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated March 23, 2017 (Tr.
14-27). 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 the claimant had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a limited range of medium work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), i. e., he
could lift and carry forty pounds occasionally and twenty
pounds frequently; stand/walk alternatively for six hours in
an eight-hour workday with intermittent sitting throughout
the day; reach, push, and pull with his upper extremities and
use his hands for grasping, holding, and turning objects up
to eight hours per eight-hour day; and climb, stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, and balance up to six hours per eight-hour day
(Tr. 20). Due to psychologically-based limitations, the ALJ
found the claimant could perform work with a Specific
Vocational Preparation (“SVP”) level of two or
less with limited ability to apply common sense understanding
to remember and carry out very short and simple written or
oral instructions (Tr. 20). The ALJ further found the
claimant could make simple work-related decisions,
occasionally interact with supervisors and co-workers, and
have contact with the general public incidental to work
purposes (Tr. 20). 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, i. e., bakery
racker, conveyor line bakery worker, and bottling line
attendant (Tr. 25-27).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
evaluate the opinions of treating physician Dr. Ellis and
state agency psychologists Dr. Lochner and Dr. Swisher, and
failed to consider the possible reasons for his noncompliance
when evaluating his subjective statements. The Court finds
these contentions unpersuasive for the following reasons.
found the claimant had the severe impairments of diabetes,
peripheral neuropathy, personality disorder, and depression,
but that his hypertension and obesity were non-severe (Tr.
16-17). The relevant medical evidence reveals that the
claimant presented to Dr. Ellis in December 2014, at which
time he diagnosed the claimant with depression, diabetes,
hypertension, headache, obesity, and tobacco use disorder
(Tr. 261-264). At a follow-up appointment in January 2015,
the claimant's blood pressure was “greatly
improved, ” his headaches were gone, and he was
non-concerned about his health (Tr. 265-67). The claimant
reported pain in ...