United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
SHERRI L. RALPH, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sherri L. Ralph, seeks judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's (SSA) denial of her application for
disability insurance benefits (DIB). The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by
a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative
Record (AR) [Doc. No. 10], and both parties have briefed
their positions. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
December 6, 2017, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an
unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and,
therefore, not entitled to DIB. AR 36-48. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at
1-6. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision constitutes the
Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v.
Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff
timely commenced this action for judicial review.
The ALJ's Decision
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d
1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Following this process,
the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since October 13, 2014, her
alleged onset date. AR 38.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the severe
impairment of fibromyalgia and several non-severe medically
determinable impairments. Id. at 39-41. At step
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments do not meet
or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 41-42.
next determined Plaintiffs residual functional capacity
(RFC), concluding that she could perform the full range of
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a).
Id. at 42-46.
four, relying on a vocational expert's (VE) testimony,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her
past relevant work but had acquired the skills of marketing
and communication, and knowledge of the real estate industry
from her past relevant work as a real estate broker. Id.
at 46-47. Proceeding to the fifth step, the VE testified
that Plaintiffs acquired work skills were transferable to
other occupations and that Plaintiff can perform other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
Id. at 47-48. The ALJ then relied upon the
Medical-Vocational Rules (Grids) to find that Plaintiff was
“not disabled” under Rules 201.15 and 201.07.
Id. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is
not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act.
Id. at 48.
Claims Presented for Judicial Review
alleges the ALJ erred in: (1) adequately accounting for all
of her medically determinable impairments in the RFC and (2)
sustaining his burden of proof at step five of the sequential
evaluation process. Pl.'s Br. [Doc. No. 17] at 2-10,
10-13. Plaintiff also alleges that the SSA Appeals Council
erred in declining to consider certain medical records
submitted post-hearing. Id. at 13-14. As explained
below, the Court finds no grounds for reversal.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009); see
also Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir.
2008) (holding that the court only reviews an ALJ's
decision “to determine whether the factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether
the correct legal standards were applied” and in that
review, “we neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute
our judgment for that of the agency” (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted)). Under such review,
“common sense, not technical perfection, is [the
Court's] guide.” Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue,
695 F.3d 1156, 1167 (10th Cir. 2012).