United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Angela Darlene Rowell requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She
appeals the Commissioner’s decision and asserts the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner’s decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
Security Law and Standard of Review
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 h[er] physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that [s]he is not only
unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering
h[er] 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-seven years old at the time of the most
recent administrative hearing (Tr. 46). She has a high school
education and has worked as a resident supervisor, resident
care aide, day care worker, waitress, and kitchen helper (Tr.
51, 66). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to
work since an amended onset date of September 7, 2012, due to
anxiety, depression, tethered and split cord, tissue
disorder, muscle pain, and back pain (Tr. 326, 331).
September 2012, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434 (Tr. 291-92). Her application was
denied. ALJ B.D. Crutchfield conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled
through her date last insured of December 31, 2012, in a
written opinion dated November 19, 2014 (Tr. 131-40). The
Appeals Council remanded the case on June 2, 2016 (Tr.
147-49). On remand, ALJ B.D. Crutchfield conducted another
administrative hearing and again found the claimant was not
disabled through her date last insured in a written decision
dated November 29, 2016 (Tr. 16-27). The Appeals Council
denied review, so the ALJ’s November 2016 written
opinion is the Commissioner’s final decision for
purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. §
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
She found the claimant retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), i.
e., she could lift/carry/push/pull twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand and/or walk two
hours in an eight-hour workday; and sit six hours in an
eight-hour workday (Tr. 22). Due to psychologically-based
limitations, the ALJ found the claimant could perform simple
and some complex tasks (defined during the hearing as
semi-skilled) with routine supervision, adapt to change, and
avoid hazards in a workplace setting (Tr. 22). The ALJ then
concluded that although the claimant could not return to her
past relevant work, she was nevertheless not disabled because
there was work she could perform in the national economy,
e. g., telephone solicitor, credit card clerk, and
data examination clerk (Tr. 26-27).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to: (i)
account for her headaches and nonsevere carpal tunnel
syndrome and incontinence in formulating her RFC, and (ii)
pose a hypothetical to the vocational expert
(“VE”) that included all of her limitations. The
Court finds these contentions unpersuasive for the following
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
undifferentiated and mixed connective tissue disease, minimal
spondylosis of the lumbar spine, and affective disorder, but
that her intermittent bladder incontinence, history of
tethered cord syndrome, status post left carpal tunnel
release, and fibromyalgia were nonsevere (Tr. 19). The
medical records prior to the claimant’s alleged onset
date reveal that providers at Creek Nation Indian Clinic
managed her medications for various complaints of pain,
including headaches, back pain, and leg pain, between June
2008 and March 2012 (Tr. 515-748). These treatment notes do
not contain any physical examination findings, but do reflect
numerous diagnoses ...