United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Teresa Ann Ingle 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 Plaintiff's application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
United States Magistrate Judge. Upon review of the
administrative record (Doc. No. 9, hereinafter “R.
”), and the arguments and authorities submitted by the
parties, the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision
and remands the case for further proceedings.
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her DIB application on January 22, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of May 2, 2012. R. 174-82,
200. Following denial of her application initially and on
reconsideration, a hearing was held before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) on July 18, 2014. R. 31-67. In
addition to Plaintiff, a vocational expert (“VE”)
testified at the hearing. R. 31-32, 36-66. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on November 12, 2014. R. 9-30.
relevant here, 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. At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date of May 2, 2012.
R. 14. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
severe medically determinable impairments of degenerative
disc disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, and neuropathy. R.
14-18. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff had multiple
nonsevere impairments: left-arm numbness, bladder
incontinence, obesity, gastroparesis, gastroesophageal reflux
disease, migraines, hypertension, constipation,
hypothyroidism, hypercholesterolemia, insomnia, major
depressive disorder, and anxiety. R. 14-18. At step three,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff's condition did not meet or
equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 18-19.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of her medically
determinable impairments. R. 19-24. The ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the RFC “to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), ” except that Plaintiff
can lift up to twenty pounds occasionally and lift and carry
ten pounds frequently. [Plaintiff] can stand and walk up to
six hours and sit up to six hours in an eight-hour workday
with normal breaks. [Plaintiff] can never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can frequently climb stairs
and ramps, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
[Plaintiff] can have occasional exposure to hazardous moving
machinery, unprotected heights, and raw chemicals or
R. 19. At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no
past relevant work. R. 24.
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. R. 24-25. Relying upon the VE's testimony
regarding the degree of erosion to the unskilled light
occupational base caused by Plaintiff's additional
limitations, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform
light, unskilled occupations such as bakery worker,
furniture-rental clerk, and photofinishing counter clerk, and
that such occupations offer jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. R. 25. Therefore, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not been disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant time
period. R. 25.
request for review by the SSA Appeals Council was denied, and
the unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands as the
Commissioner's final decision. See R. 1-5; 20
C.F.R. § 404.981.
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).
argues that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate a medical
opinion issued by her treating physician, Cheryl Black, MD,
and this error rendered the RFC determination unsupported by