United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN United States District Judge.
Pamela Dunlavey 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 and disabled widow’s
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and supplemental security
income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
id. §§ 1381-1383f. Having reviewed the
administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R.
”),  and the arguments and authorities
submitted by the parties, the Court affirms the Commissioners
History and Administrative Decision
protectively filed her benefits applications in December 2013
and March 2016, ultimately alleging a disability-onset date
of April 12, 2013. R. 17, 310-26, 353-60. After her request
was denied initially and on reconsideration, R. 17, 87-150,
153-60, two hearings were held before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”). R. 37-62, 63-86. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on February 6, 2017. R. 17-30.
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, 416.920.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 12, 2013, the
alleged onset date. R. 20. At step two, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of polyarticular
psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, and obesity. R. 20-22. 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. 22.
next assessed Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) during the relevant period, based on all
of her medically determinable impairments, and found that
Plaintiff “has the [RFC] to perform sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except
[Plaintiff] is limited to occasional climbing of ladders,
ropes, and scaffolds, frequent climbing of ramps and stairs,
occasional hazards, and frequent balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching and crawling.” R. 22-27. At step
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any
past relevant work. R. 27-28.
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. 28-29. Relying upon the hearing testimony of a
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that
Plaintiff could perform sedentary occupations such as
insurance investigator and skip tracer and that these
occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy. R. 29. The ALJ therefore determined
that Plaintiff had not been disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act during the relevant period. R. 29.
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision. R.
3-8. The ALJ’s unfavorable decision stands as the
Commissioner’s final decision. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 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).
The ALJ’s Step-Three Determination
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred at step three in finding
that Plaintiff’s condition failed to meet or equal
Listing 14.09(A)(1), which addresses Inflammatory Arthritis,
and that this finding is not supported by substantial
evidence. See Id . at 8-17.
Listing 14.09(A)(1) and the ...