Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wright v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 8, 2017

KATHARINE S. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE IUDGE

         Plaintiff Katharine S. Wright 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 (“SSA”) denying Plaintiffs applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. Doc. No. 13. The Commissioner has answered and filed the administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R.”). [1] The parties have briefed their positions and the case is now ready for decision. For the reasons set forth below, the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands the case for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on November 26, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of November 12, 2012. R. 192-204, 218-20. Following denial of her applications initially and on reconsideration, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing. R. 25-69, 70-132. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 10, 2014. R. 12-20. The SSA Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's unfavorable decision the final decision of the Commissioner. R. 4-6; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. Plaintiff then filed this action for judicial review.

         ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         As relevant here, a person is “disabled” within the meaning of the Social Security Act if he or she is “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . . which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine entitlement to disability benefits. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 12, 2012, the alleged onset date. R. 14. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; chronic low back pain; bipolar disorder; panic disorder with agoraphobia; and history of substance abuse. R. 14. At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 15-16.

         The ALJ next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) based on all of her medically determinable impairments. R. 16-18. The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light work, except she must “adhere to short and simple instructions” and “work in relative isolation with no general public contact, ” and she “can work in proximity of others, but no teamwork activity.” R. 16; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) (defining “light” work), 416.967(b) (same). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work and that transferability of job skills was not a material issue. R. 19.

         At step five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in view of her age, education, work experience, and RFC-could perform. Taking into consideration the hearing testimony of a vocational expert regarding the degree of erosion to the unskilled light occupational base that is caused by Plaintiff's additional limitations, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform occupations such as laundry worker, mail sorter, and production-line solderer, all of which offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. R. 19-20. On this basis, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 12, 2012, through the date of the decision. R. 20.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether correct legal standards were applied. 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) (internal quotation marks 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) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court “meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, ” including any evidence “that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings, ” “to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). While a reviewing court considers whether the Commissioner followed 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).

         ISSUES ON APPEAL

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to perform a function-by-function assessment and to fulfill his duty to develop the record. Plaintiff further argues that Plaintiff's mental RFC is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to adequately consider third party statements, GAF scores, and medical opinions, and because the ALJ failed to properly assess Plaintiff's credibility. Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. 16) at 6-16. The Court finds that remand is required because the ALJ failed to fulfill his duty to develop the record. Because this issue alone warrants remand, the Court need not ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.