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Baker v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 15, 2017

WANDA BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHON T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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 denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter TR.____). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this matter by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         The parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and the issues presented, the Court REVERSES AND REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Initially and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application for benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 13-21). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §404.1520. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 21, 2014, the alleged disability onset date. (TR. 15). At step two, the ALJ determined Ms. Baker had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus and neuropathy in both hands and feet. (TR. 15). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 17).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Baker retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except no lifting or carrying more than 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; pushing/pulling limitations are consistent with lifting and carrying limitations; stand and/or walk 2 hours in an 8-hour workday (walk for 30 minutes at a time; stand 30 minutes at a time); and sit 6-8 hours in an 8hour workday. The claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally climb stairs, balance, bend, or stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She is limited to concentrated (occasional) vibration, hazardous fast machinery, and unprotected heights.

(TR. 18). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a Billing Clerk and a Loan Collector/Processor. (TR. 20). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded, at step four, that Ms. Baker was not disabled. (TR. 20-21).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in his consideration of: (1) a consultative examiner's opinion, (2) Plaintiff's “severe” impairment involving neuropathy, and (3) Plaintiff's “non-severe” impairment involving urinary frequency.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews the Commissioner's final “decision to determin[e] whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct legal standards were applied.” Wilson v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation 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 will “neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201 (10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         V. THE CONSULTATIVE ...


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