United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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 denying Plaintiff’s
application for disability insurance benefits under the
Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed
a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter TR.
___). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this
matter by a United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c).
parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now
at issue. Based on the Court’s review of the record and
the issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
(SSA) denied Plaintiff’s application for disability
insurance benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined by the
Social Security Act, from April 15, 2014, Plaintiff’s
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2016, the date
Plaintiff was last insured (DLI). (TR. 18-32). The ALJ
additionally found that Plaintiff had a prior application for
disability insurance benefits that was denied on February 12,
2015, and not timely appealed. Finding that the previous
determinations were final and binding, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff’s current application would only
consider the time period from February 12, 2015, forward.
(TR. 18). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s
request for review. (TR. 1-8). Thus, the decision of the ALJ
became the final decision of the Commissioner.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart,
431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff last
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act on December 31, 2016, and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since April 15, 2014, the date of
Plaintiff’s alleged onset. (TR. 20). At step two, the
ALJ determined that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff
had the following severe impairments: renal cancer status
post right partial nephron sparing nephrectomy, essential
hypertension, and obesity. (TR. 21). At step three, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or
medically equal any of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. (TR. 22).
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform the full range of
sedentary work. (TR. 23). The ALJ further found that
Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as
a grant writer, research and evaluation director, college
dean, alumni relations director, and an insurance benefits
clerk. (TR. 31). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
disabled at any time from April 15, 2014, through December
31, 2016. (TR. 32).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews the Commissioner’s final “decision
to determine whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct
legal standards were applied.” Wilson v.
Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010). Under the
“substantial evidence” standard, a court looks to
an existing administrative record and asks whether it
contains “sufficient evidence” to support the
agency’s factual determinations. Biestek v.
Berryhill, __ U.S. __, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019)
(internal citation, alteration, and quotation marks omitted).
“Substantial evidence . . . is more than a mere
scintilla . . . and means only-such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted).
the court considers whether the ALJ followed the applicable
rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in
disability cases, the court will “neither reweigh the
evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the
agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201
(10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the RFC is not supported by
substantial evidence and the ALJ erred in considering
evidence of chronic fatigue and coronary artery disease. (ECF
No. 13:3-12, 12-14).
initial matter, the Court is mindful of the time period under
consideration. As set forth above, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff’s current application would only consider the
time period from February 12, 2015, forward and further
determined that Plaintiff’s date last insured was
December 31, 2016. Accordingly, Plaintiff needed to establish
disability between February 13, 2015 and December 31, 2016 to
be entitled to benefits. See TR. 18-19; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.957(c)(1) (res judicata precludes ALJ from
reconsidering previous determinations); Wilson, 602
F.3d at 1139 (claimant has burden of proving she was totally
disabled on or before the date last insured).
Plaintiff asserts that “the crux of the case” is
that the ALJ disregarded Plaintiff’s “chronic
fatigue” and ignored medical evidence regarding
fatigue. (ECF No. 13:3-12). Plaintiff argues that the RFC
determination is not supported by substantial evidence
because it should have included limitations for
Plaintiff’s fatigue and edema; specifically, Plaintiff
asserts the RFC should have included a daily nap. (ECF No.
13:4, 5, 6, 11).
gave “great weight to the treating notes and clinical
findings” of Jess Armor, M.D., Plaintiff’s
oncologist, but Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ improperly
ignored medical evidence from Dr. Armor indicating the need
for a daily nap. (TR. 29; ECF No. 13:3-6). In reviewing the
medical evidence from Dr. Armor, the ALJ discussed medical
evidence dated during the time period relevant to this
decision (i.e., between February 13, 2015 and December 31,
2016) as well as prior to this time period and after
Plaintiff’s DLI. See TR. 25-27. A claim of
disability may be supported by direct evidence or indirect
evidence. Medical records during an insured period are direct
evidence of a claimant’s condition during that period.
Baca v. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., 5
F.3d 476, 479 (10th Cir. 1993). Medical records that
post-date the insured period may constitute indirect ...