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Cotten v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 9, 2017

RONDA COTTEN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUZANNE MITCHELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Ronda Cotten (Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (Commissioner) final decision that she was not “disabled” under the terms of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 423(d)(1)(A). The parties have consented under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge. Doc. 17. Following a careful review of the parties' briefs, the administrative record (AR), and the relevant authority, the court reverses and remands the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Administrative determination.

         A. Disability standard.

         The Social Security Act defines “disability” as the “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). “This twelve-month duration requirement applies to the claimant's inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity, and not just h[er] underlying impairment.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 218-19 (2002)).

         B. Burden of proof.

         Plaintiff “bears the burden of establishing a disability” and of “ma[king] a prima facie showing that [s]he can no longer engage in h[er] prior work activity.” Turner v. Heckler, 754 F.2d 326, 328 (10th Cir. 1985). If Plaintiff makes that prima facie showing, the burden of proof then shifts to the Commissioner to show Plaintiff retains the capacity to perform a different type of work and that such a specific type of job exists in the national economy. Id.

         C. Relevant findings.

         The ALJ assigned to Plaintiff's case applied the standard regulatory analysis and concluded Plaintiff had not met her burden of proof. AR 17-23; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4); 416.920(a)(4); see also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step analysis). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff:

(1) was severely impaired, first, status-post cardiovascular accident/transient ischemic attack with left-sided weakness, second, by subarachnoid cyst, third by migraine syndrome, fourth by remote history of congestive heart failure, fifth by mood disorder, sixth by depression, seventh by anxiety, and eighth by mild cognitive disorder;
(2) did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment;
(3) had the residual functional capacity (RFC)[1] to perform light work with the following with no more than occasional lifting up to twenty pounds, no more than the frequent lifting or carrying up to ten pounds, standing/walking six hours out of an eight-hour workday, sitting six hours out of an eight-hour workday, no more than the frequent handling, fingering, or feeling with the left non-dominant upper extremity, and no exposure to temperature or humidity extremes or wetness; she can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions consistent with unskilled work that is repetitive and routine in nature and can relate and interact with co-workers and supervisors on a work-related basis only with no minimal interaction with the general public; she can adapt to a work situation with these limitations/restrictions and her medication would not preclude her from remaining reasonably alert to perform required functions presented in a work setting;
(4) could not perform any past relevant work;
(5) could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, such as small products assemble, inspector/hand packer, document ...

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