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 supplemental security income 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 REVERSES the
Commissioner's decision and REMANDS the matter for
further administrative development.
application for supplemental security income was denied
initially and on reconsideration. Following a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable
decision. (TR. 92-99). The Appeals Council granted
Plaintiff's request for review and remanded for further
administrative findings. (TR. 106-107). After a second
hearing, the same ALJ issued another unfavorable decision.
(TR. 15-28). Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the
second decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
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. § 416.920.
At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 20,
2010, the application date. (TR. 18). At step two, the ALJ
determined Ms. Lyons had the following severe impairments: a
mood disorder, an affective disorder, diabetes, and status
post callouses to the feet. (TR. 18). 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. 19).
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform her past
relevant work. (TR. 26). The ALJ further concluded that Ms.
Lyons had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except
the claimant can have no contact with the general public.
Further, the claimant can perform simple one-to-two step
tasks. Moreover, the claimant cannot perform complex or
detailed instructions. Additionally, the claimant can have no
continued exposure to bright lights. Finally, the claimant
can occasionally stoop and bend.
on the finding that Ms. Lyons could not perform her past
relevant work, the ALJ proceeded to step five. There, the ALJ
presented several limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to
determine whether there were other jobs in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 80-81). Given the
limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary
of Occupational Titles. (TR. 81-82). The ALJ adopted the
testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms. Lyons was not
disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs.
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ: (1) committed error at
step two, (2) failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's
obesity, (3) engaged in selective review of a consulting
physician's opinion, and (4) failed to consider various
impairments in assessing Plaintiff's RFC.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to
determin[e] 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).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation 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).
NO ERROR AT STEP TWO
alleges two errors at step two, but neither have merit. At
step two, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Lyons suffered from
severe impairments involving a mood disorder, an affective
disorder, diabetes, and status post callouses to her feet.
(TR. 18). The ALJ also made a specific finding that the
following impairments were not severe: Plaintiff's
peripheral neuropathy, status post right arm pain,
hypertension, asthma, and obesity. (TR. 18). Ms. Lyons
alleges that the ALJ employed a “flawed test” for
severity and erred in concluding that the peripheral
neuropathy, arm pain, hypertension, and asthma were not
severe.  (ECF No. 16:4-11). Plaintiff goes on
to then cite evidence which she believes would support a
finding that the non-severe impairments were, in fact,
severe. (ECF No. 16:4-11). But the Court need not address
Plaintiff's allegations because the ALJ found other
severe impairments and proceeded to the remaining steps of
the disability evaluation. See Brescia v. Astrue,
287 F. App'x 626, 629 (10th Cir. 2008) (“Once an
ALJ has found that a claimant has at least one severe
impairment, a failure to designate another disorder as
‘severe' at step two does not constitute reversible
error. . .”).
citing Wells v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061 (10th Cir.
2003), Ms. Lyons argues that the ALJ's step two findings
were inadequate. (ECF No. 16:18-20). But her reliance on
Wells is misplaced.
Wells, the ALJ had made a step-two finding that the
plaintiff's mental impairments were not severe.
Wells, 727 F.3d at 1068. The ALJ then stated:
“[t]hese findings do not result in further limitations
in work-related functions in the [RFC] below.”
Id. at 1069 (brackets in original). The Tenth
Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the ALJ's language
“suggest[ed]” that he may have relied on his
step-two findings to conclude that the plaintiff had no
limitations at step four based on mental impairments.
Id. at 1069. If so, the Court stated, such a
conclusion would be considered “inadequate under the
regulations” because the RFC analysis at step four
required “a more detailed assessment”
“describing how the evidence support[ed] each
conclusion, citing specific medical facts.”
Id. (emphasis in original).
Lyons contends that the ALJ erred at step two by making
findings more egregious than the step two findings condemned
in Wells. Plaintiff states: “Worse yet, in
contrast to the step-two statement that Wells
implied would be inadequate, at step two in Ms. Lyons's
case the ALJ made no statement whatsoever regarding
all severe or non-severe impairments in her RFC which is
clearly error.” (ECF No. 16:20) (emphasis in original).
This statement suggests that Plaintiff believes
Wells requires some sort of finding at step two