United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MARLAINE E. STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN, United States District Judge.
Marlaine E. Stephens 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
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f. The Court has reviewed the administrative record
(Doc. No. 12, hereinafter “R. ”), and the
arguments and authorities submitted by the parties. The
Commissioner’s decision is affirmed.
History and Administrative Decision Plaintiff protectively
filed her SSI application on February 18, 2015, and
ultimately alleged that her disability began on that same
date. R. 15, 40, 147-52. The SSA denied her application
initially and on reconsideration. R. 64-92. At
Plaintiff’s request, an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) held a hearing on November 17, 2016,
after which the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
February 14, 2017. R. 12-63.
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. § 416.920. At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity during the relevant time period. R. 17. At
step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe
impairments of right-leg tibial fracture post-surgical repair
and hardware removal and traumatic arthritis in the right
knee. R. 17-19.
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. 19-20.
next assessed Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) during the relevant period, based on all
of her medically determinable impairments, and found:
[Plaintiff] has the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in
20 CFR 416.967(b) except no climbing of ladders, ropes or
scaffolds, and no crawling. Crouching, kneeling, and climbing
ramps or stairs can be done occasionally. [Plaintiff] has no
limitations with respect to stooping or balancing. Handling
and fingering on the left side can be done frequently. No.
exposure to unprotected heights, open flames, dangerous
machinery or equipment, or other hazardous conditions (note
that not all moving machinery is dangerous, such as machinery
where moving parts are shielded).
At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past
relevant work. R. 24.
five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in
view of her age, education, work experience, and RFC-could
perform. R. 25. Relying upon the hearing testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform
light unskilled occupations such as booth cashier, ticket
taker, and office helper, and that these occupations offer
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. R. 25. The ALJ therefore determined that Plaintiff
had not been disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act during the relevant period. R. 26.
Appeals Council denied review, R. 1-6, and the ALJ’s
unfavorable decision stands as the Commissioner’s final
decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
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 court considers whether
the Commissioner followed applicable rules of law in weighing
particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court
does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511
F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008).
action, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to properly
evaluate the evidence relating to Plaintiff’s gait
impairments and that the ALJ’s RFC is not supported by