United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
LAURIE L. SHOUN, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
M. PURCELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of
the final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying her
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423. Defendant
has answered the Complaint and filed the administrative
record (hereinafter AR___), and the parties have briefed the
issues. The matter has been referred to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28
U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B). For the following reasons, it is
recommended Defendant's decision be affirmed.
Administrative History and Final Agency Decision
filed her application for disability insurance benefits on
January 27, 2017. AR 165-66. Plaintiff alleged she became
disabled on December 30, 2016, due to multiple sclerosis. AR
165, 205. The Social Security Administration denied
Plaintiff's application on March 2, 2017, see
Id. at 70, 71-78, and on reconsideration on April 19,
2017. AR 79, 80-88.
appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on November 9, 2017. AR 39-69. A
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the
hearing. AR 64-66. The ALJ issued a decision in which he
found Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. AR 21-34. Following the agency's
well-established sequential evaluation procedure, the ALJ
found at the first step that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since December 30, 2016. AR 26.
At the second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe
impairment of relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis.
Id. At the third step, the ALJ found this impairment
was not per se disabling as Plaintiff did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the requirements of a listed impairment.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited range of
sedentary work. AR 27. Specifically, Plaintiff can lift
and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds
frequently. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff can stand
and/or walk up to two hours total and sit approximately six
hours in an eight-hour workday. Id.
on the VE's testimony as to the ability of a hypothetical
individual with Plaintiff's work history, age, education,
and determined RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could
perform her past relevant work as a claims processor. AR 34.
Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had not
been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security
Act, from December 30, 2016 through the date of the decision.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
and therefore the ALJ's decision is the final decision of
the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981;
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir.
appeal, Plaintiff raises several issues throughout her
Opening Brief. First, she contends the ALJ failed to properly
consider various medical opinions of record. Plaintiff's
Opening Brief (Doc. No. 13) at 3-10. Second, Plaintiff argues
the ALJ failed to properly consider Plaintiff's
depression as a mental impairment. Id. at 10-13.
Third, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred in considering her
subjective symptoms. Id. at 13-15.
General Legal Standards Guiding Judicial Review
Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision
is supported by substantial evidence in the record and
whether the correct legal standards were applied. Biestek
v. Berryhill, __ U.S. __, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1153 (2019);
Wilson v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir.
2010). Substantial evidence “means-and means
only-‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Biestek, 139 S.Ct. at 1154 (quoting Consolidated
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The
“determination of whether the ALJ's ruling is
supported by substantial evidence must be based upon the
record taken as a whole. Consequently, [the Court must]
remain mindful that evidence is not substantial if it is
overwhelmed by other evidence in the record.”
Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (citations, quotations, and
Social Security Act authorizes payment of benefits to an
individual with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 401 et
seq. A disability is an “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see 20 C.F.R.
§404.1509 (duration requirement). Both the
“impairment” and the “inability” must
be expected to last not less than twelve months. Barnhart
v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212 (2002).
agency follows a five-step sequential evaluation procedure in
resolving the claims of disability applicants. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), (b)-(g). “If the
claimant is not considered disabled at step three, but has
satisfied her burden of establishing a prima facie case of
disability under steps one, two, and four, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show the claimant has the [RFC] to
perform other work in the national economy in view of her
age, education, and work experience.” Fischer-Ross
v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005).
“The claimant is entitled to disability benefits only
if he (or she) is not able to perform other work.”
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 142 (1987).