United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
REBECCA A. WESTERN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Rebecca A. Western, 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. 17], 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.
October 5, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits (DIB). See AR 11.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the
application initially and on reconsideration. AR 81, 83.
Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued
an unfavorable decision dated October 7, 2014. AR 7-28. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR
1-4. 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 during the period between her
alleged onset date, August 26, 2010, and her date last
insured, December 31, 2013. AR 13.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of the back, right
shoulder disorder, congestive heart failure, sleep apnea, and
obesity. AR 13-18. At step three, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal
any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. AR 18-19.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except that
she cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can
stand/walk for two hours in an eight-hour workday and sit for
six hours in an eight-hour workday. The claimant can only
occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl or stoop. She cannot climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds and cannot balance. She can
occasionally climb stairs and ramps. She cannot perform
overhead reaching with her right upper extremity. She can
frequently reach, handle, finger and feel with her left and
right upper extremities.
AR 19-22. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert
(VE), the ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of performing
past relevant work as a doctor's office receptionist. AR
22. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not
disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 22.
Issues Presented for Judicial Review
argues the ALJ erred with regard to the credibility analysis,
failed to analyze evidence relating to medical conditions or
consider the resulting limitations thereof, and did not
properly evaluate the RFC.
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 weighing
particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court
does not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511
F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (quotations and citations
The ALJ Erred in Her ...