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Rodriguez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 25, 2017



          Paul J. Cleary United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, Helen Darlene Rodriguez (“Rodriguez”), seeks judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability under the Social Security Act is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A claimant is disabled under the Act only if his “physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). Social Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.[1] See also Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009) (detailing steps). “If a determination can be made at any of the steps that a claimant is or is not disabled, evaluation under a subsequent step is not necessary.” Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084 (citation and quotation omitted).

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in scope to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the correct legal standards were applied. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004).

         “Substantial evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (quotation and citation omitted). Although the court will not reweigh the evidence, the court will “meticulously examine the record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Id.

         I. Background

         Rodriguez was fifty-one years old on the alleged date of onset of disability and fifty-five years old on the date of the Commissioner's final decision. She has a high school education. (R. 33). She has previous experience as a dump truck driver; as an over-the-road truck driver; as a dispatcher; as a customer service representative; and as a cashier. (R. 33). In her application, she claimed to be unable to work as a result of hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, anxiety, major depression, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS)”, ADD, and spastic colon. (R. 191).

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         In his decision, the ALJ found that Rodriguez met insured status requirements through December 31, 2016, and, at Step One, that she had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2012, the alleged onset date. (R. 27). He found at Step Two that Rodriguez had severe impairments of hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (“RA”), fibromyalgia, and spastic colon/IBS. Id. At Step Three, he found that the impairments did not meet or medically equal any listing. (R. 29). He concluded that Rodriguez had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) “to perform the full range of ‘light' work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b).” Id. At Step Four, the ALJ determined that, based on the RFC, Rodriguez was unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. 32). At Step Five, he found that, considering Rodriguez's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, including mail clerk, light unskilled work, DOT #209.687-026, 18, 000 jobs in Oklahoma and 149, 000 jobs nationally; electrical assembly, light work, DOT #729.687-010, 16, 000 jobs in Oklahoma and 172, 000 jobs nationally; and production inspector, light work, DOT #713.684-050, 17, 000 jobs in Oklahoma and 195, 000 jobs nationally. (R. 33).

         Accordingly, the ALJ found that Rodriguez had not been under a disability from March 31, 2102, through the date of the decision. (R. 34).

         III. Issues Raised

         On appeal, Rodriguez asserts that: (1) the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical opinion evidence and failed to properly determine Rodriguez's residual functional capacity; and (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Rodriguez's credibility.

         IV. ...

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