United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Karen Williams, 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), 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.
filed applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB)
and supplemental security income (SSI), alleging disability
beginning November 2017. AR 191-99. Following an
administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
issued an unfavorable decision dated June 25, 2015. AR 17-29.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on November 22, 2016. AR 1-7. Therefore, the ALJ's
decision constitutes the final decision of the Commissioner.
Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir.
2011). Plaintiff timely commenced this action for judicial
review. See Compl. [Doc. No. 1] (filed Jan. 4,
The ALJ's 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) (explaining process);
see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
The ALJ first determined that Plaintiff meets the insured
status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016, and
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date, November 17, 2012. AR 19.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine; gout; diabetes mellitus; and affective disorder.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal
any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, App. 1. AR 20-22.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC). The ALJ concluded Plaintiff could perform light work
with additional physical and mental limitations. AR
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform her past
relevant work as a Dietary Assistant; Dishwasher; Kitchen
Helper; or Cafeteria Cook because that work requires an
exertional level greater than the ALJ's RFC
determination. AR 27-28. At step five, relying on the
testimony of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff can perform other work that exists in significant
numbers in the national economy. AR 28-29. The ALJ identified
Bottling Line Attendant; Electrode Cleaner, Production Help;
and Bakery Worker as representative occupations. AR 28-29.
The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the terms of the Social Security Act. AR 29.
Issue Presented for Judicial Review
seeks judicial review raising two claims of error: (1) the
ALJ failed to properly consider medical source opinions; and
(2) the ALJ's findings regarding Plaintiff's
allegations about her symptoms is legally flawed and not
supported by substantial evidence.
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).
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 omitted).
bears the burden of proof at steps one through four of the
sequential evaluation process to establish a prima facie case
of disability. Wells v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1064
n. 1 (10th Cir. 2013). If Plaintiff meets this burden, the
burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five to
show that Plaintiff retains a ...