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Wilson v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 23, 2019

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


          CHARLES B. GOODWIN, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Terry Wilson 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, and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, id. §§ 1381-1383f. Upon review of the administrative record (Doc. No. 10, hereinafter “R. ”), [2] and the arguments and authorities submitted by the parties, the Commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

         Procedural History and Administrative Decision Plaintiff protectively filed her DIB and SSI applications on March 20, 2015, alleging disability beginning February 18, 2015. R. 11, 174-90. The SSA denied Plaintiff’s application initially and on reconsideration. R. 56-97. At Plaintiff’s request, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on October 11, 2016. R. 33-55. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 1, 2016. R. 8-20.

         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, 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had worked since her disability-onset date, but her earnings had not constituted substantial gainful activity for purposes of determining eligibility for DIB and SSI. R. 13. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments consisting of obesity, spinal stenosis, and dysfunction of major joints. R. 14.

         At step three, the ALJ found 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. R. 16-17.

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

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except the claimant can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, but can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl.

         R. 17.

         Based on the hearing testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff can perform her past relevant work as credit clerk and dispatcher both as actually and generally performed, and her past relevant work as rental clerk as actually performed. R. 19-20. Thus, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Id.; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f); 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f).

         The SSA Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision, R. 1-6, and the unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the Commissioner’s final decision. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.


         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, ” “to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” 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).


         Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the “intensity, persistence and functionally limiting effects of [Plaintiff’s] symptoms.” Pl.’s Br. (Doc. No. 12) at 3-7. She further alleges that the ALJ “improperly granted partial weight to ...

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