United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
AMANDA G. LANG, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Amanda G. Lang, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's final decision finding she was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by
a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative
Record (AR) [Doc. No. 12], and both parties have briefed
their respective positions. For the reasons stated below, the
Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands
the matter for further proceedings.
April 16, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits (DIB). See AR 89.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the
application initially and on reconsideration. AR 125, 149.
Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued
an unfavorable decision dated October 24, 2014. AR 86-100.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review. AR
1-6. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision
of the Commissioner. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of this
final agency decision.
The ALJ's Decision
followed the sequential evaluation process required by agency
regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d
729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005) (explaining five-step sequential
evaluation process); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since February 2, 2011, her
alleged onset date. AR 91.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the severe
impairments of status post traumatic brain injury, a mood
disorder, and a cognitive disorder. AR 91. At step three,
the ALJ found Plaintiffs impairments do not meet or medically
equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. AR 92-93.
next determined Plaintiffs residual functional capacity
[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform a
full range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: She is limited to simple
tasks; only superficial contact with supervisors and
co-workers; and no interaction with the general public. She
can adapt to a low stress work environment that does not
involve high production standards or require rapid mental
AR 93-96. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work. AR 96. Relying on the testimony of a
vocational expert (VE), the ALJ found there were other jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff could perform- hand packer and laundry sorter.
AR 96-97. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was
not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 97.
Issues Presented for Judicial Review
argues the ALJ failed to develop the record regarding
Plaintiffs mental impairments. Pl.'sBr. [Doc. No. 16],
5-12. She also argues the ALJ improperly ignored
probative medical evidence contradicting his findings.
Id. at 12-15.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v.
Astrue,569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009).
"Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Doyal v. Barnhart,331 F.3d 758,
760 (10th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). A decision is not
based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other
evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of
evidence supporting it. Branum v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d
1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004). The court "meticulously
examine[s] 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."
Wall v. Astrue,561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009)
(citations omitted). While the court considers whether the
ALJ followed the applicable rules of law in ...