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Barrett v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 19, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.


          Charles B. Goodwin United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Glen D. Barrett[2] brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying Plaintiff’s application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (Doc. No. 10, hereinafter “R. ”), [3] and the arguments and authorities submitted by the parties. The Commissioner’s decision is affirmed.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his DIB application on October 29, 2014, and ultimately alleged disability beginning March 1, 2010. R. 18, 46, 175-81. The SSA denied his application initially and on reconsideration. R. 62-89. At Plaintiff’s request, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on August 3, 2016, after which the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 17, 2017. R. 15-61.

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process in determining Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. R. 21. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of: emphysema; costochondritis; lumbago; major depressive disorder, recurrent, moderate to severe, without psychotic features; and generalized anxiety disorder. R. 21-25.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”). R. 25-27.

         The ALJ next assessed Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) during the relevant period, based on all of his medically determinable impairments, and found:

[T]hrough the date last insured, [Plaintiff] had the [RFC] to perform “medium work, ” as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c), except that [Plaintiff] can only: have no more than occasional exposure to irritants, such as dusts, fumes, smoke, gases, and poor ventilation; have no more than occasional exposure to high humidity and wetness; understand, remember, and carry out 1 to 3 step simple instructions; make only simple work related decisions; and deal with only occasional changes in work processes and environment.

R 27. At step four, the ALJ considered the hearing testimony of the vocational expert (“VE”) and found that Plaintiff was not capable of performing any past relevant work. R. 33.

         At step five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in view of his age, education, work experience, and RFC-could perform. R. 33-34. Relying upon the VE’s testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform unskilled occupations such as laundry worker, hand packager, and machine attendant, and that these occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. R. 34. The ALJ therefore determined that Plaintiff had not been disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant period. R. 34.

         The SSA Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision. R. 1-6. The ALJ’s unfavorable decision stands as the Commissioner’s final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.


         This Court’s judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision is limited to determining whether factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether correct legal standards were applied. Poppa v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A decision is not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of evidence supporting it.” Branum v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d 1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court “meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, ” including any evidence “that may undercut or detract from the ALJ’s findings, ” in determining whether the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial evidence. Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). Though a reviewing ...

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