United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THOMAS MARTEN, JUDGE.
Warden filed for disability and disability insurance
benefits, contending that she became disabled on March 31,
2011 due to coronary vasospasm. The claim was denied
initially on October 24, 2013, and on reconsideration on
March 19, 2014. Warden sought review of these decisions, and
appeared at an evidentiary hearing conducted by
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Edward Evans on January 14,
2015. Judge Evans determined that Warden's heart
condition did not arise until after her last date of insured
Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled
under a five-step sequential evaluation process (SEP)
pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920. The
applicant has the initial burden of proof in the first three
steps: she must show that she is not engaged in substantial
gainful activity, that she has a medically-determinable,
severe ailment, and whether that impairment matches one of
the listed impairments of 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt P., app.
1. See Ray v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 222, 224 (10th Cir.
1989). If a claimant shows that she cannot return to her
former work, the Commissioner has the burden of showing that
she can perform other work existing in significant numbers in
the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). See
Channel v. Heckler, 747 F.2d 577, 579 (10th Cir. 1984).
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
governed by 42 U.S.C. 405(g) of the Social Security Act.
Under the statute, the Commissioner's decision will be
upheld so long as it applies the “correct legal
standard, ” and is supported by “substantial
evidence” in the record as a whole. Glenn v.
Shalala, 21 F.3d 983, 984 (10th Cir. 1994).
evidence means more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. It is satisfied by evidence that a reasonable
mind might accept to support the conclusion. The question of
whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision is not a mere quantitative exercise; evidence is not
substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence, or in
reality is a mere conclusion. Ray, 865 F.2d at 224.
The court must scrutinize the whole record in determining
whether the Commissioner's conclusions are rational.
Graham v. Sullivan, 794 F.Supp. 1045, 1047 (D. Kan.
1992). The court will not reweigh the evidence. “The
possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the
evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's
findings from being supported by substantial evidence.”
Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (10th Cir.
2004). Thus the court will not “displace the
agenc[y's] choice between two fairly conflicting views,
even though the court would justifiably have made a different
choice had the matter been before it de novo.”
Id. See Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084
(10th Cir. 2007) (applying Zoltanski in reviewing
ALJ's social security decision).
deferential review is limited to factual determinations; it
does not apply to the Commisioner's conclusions of law.
Applying an incorrect legal standard, or providing the court
with an insufficient basis to determine that correct legal
principles were applied, is grounds for reversal. Frey v.
Bowen, 816 F.2d 508, 512 (10th Cir. 1987).
Warden's last date of insured status under the Social
Security Act, and the date she contends she became disabled,
was March 31, 2011. In the present appeal, Warden contends
that the ALJ erred by determining that her impairment did not
arise until after March 31, 2011. She supports her appeal by
citing various portions of the medical record (Dkt. 8, at
3-6) as demonstrating the existence of a disability prior to
the end of insured status.
court finds that the ALJ's determination was supported by
substantial evidence. The evidence shows that Warren began to
receive treatment for coronary vasospasm after a coronary
episode that occurred on May 20, 2011. At that time, she
reported chest discomfort, elevated blood pressure, and
nausea. An extensive cardiac examination produced no
significant results. An x-ray and EKG were unremarkable, but
a catheterization in August, 2011 noted some vasospasm in the
left circumflex artery. Warden has submitted additional
reports of chest pain since that time.
as the ALJ noted, all of this evidence demonstrates this
condition arose after the end of plaintiff's insured
status on March 31, 2011. The evidence before that time shows
some history of hypertension, but no evidence of disability.
When nurse practioner speaking with Warden in 2006 noted some
evidence of hypertension, Warden was placed on blood pressure
medication. A consultation on February 28, 2007 noted that
Warden had a history of hypertension, but that it
“seems to be controlled” with medication. (Tr.
434). The examination indicated “regular rate and
rhythm” as to Warden's heart beat, and most of the
consultation was devoted to discussing the need to stop
smoking and start exercising. (Tr. 435). Dr. Jason Williams
told Warden that her “blood pressure is
December 18, 2009, Warden saw Dr. Tim McVay. She was
“[w]ell appearing, well nourished in no
distress.” (Tr. 432). Dr. McVay noted, after the
examination, that Warden's heart exhibited “no
cardiomegaly or thrills; regular rate and rhythm, no murmur
or gallop.” (Id.) He prescribed continuing
with Zestoretic for her hypertension.
later, Warden returned to Dr. McVay, and reported
experiencing very low blood pressure and that “she is
very tired and her arms feel heavy.” (Tr. 429). Dr.
McVay prescribed Lisinopril (5 mg) and encouraged her improve
her diet. In a follow-up meeting in February, 2009, Warden
reported that she had stopped taking Lisinopril because it
was making her confused. Dr. McVay noted that “these
symptoms are certainly strange for this medicine.” (Tr.
428). He prescribed hydrochlorothiazide “because she
has tolerated this well in the past.” (Id.)
Warden did not seek further treatment for hypertension prior
to the end of her insured status.
is simply no evidence in the medical record that Warden
experienced any medically determinable impairment due to
coronary vasospasm until after the end of her insured status
on March 31, 2011. All of the medical records for the
plaintiff prior to this time confirm that she was
successfully treated for hypertension several years before.
The ALJ accordingly found that the record failed to
demonstrate that Warden “had a medically determinable
impairment prior to the date last insured, much less that her
impairment was severe or debilitating in nature.” (Tr.
15). The court has reviewed the entire medical record, and
finds the ALJ did not err in concluding that the record did
not establish any medically determinable impairment through
plaintiff's date last insured.
ACCORDINGLY ORDERED this 14th day of February,
2018, that the plaintiff's appeal is denied and the