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Ricketts v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 28, 2017

KEITH RICKETTS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHONT. 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 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. 18-33). 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. § 404.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity between his alleged onset date of February 4, 2008 through his last date insured, June 30, 2013. (TR. 20). At step two, the ALJ determined Mr. Ricketts had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the back; diabetes; obesity; depressive disorder; and anxiety disorder. (TR. 20). 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. 21).

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

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) in that the claimant was able to lift, carry, push and/or pull ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; sit for the total of six hours throughout an eight-hour workday; and, stand and/or walk the total of two hours throughout an eight-hour workday. The claimant was able to occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl, stoop, and climb ramps and stairs, but was not able to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant was able to adapt to work situations. The claimant was able to perform simple and some complex tasks with routine supervision. The claimant was able to interact appropriately with supervisors and co-workers and have occasional public contact, but no customer service work.

(TR. 24). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (TR. 32). As a result, the ALJ made additional findings at step five. There, the ALJ presented several limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 64). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR. 64-65). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Mr. Ricketts was not disabled based on his ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 33).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in her consideration of a treating physician's opinion which, in turn, affected the RFC and step five findings.

         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). ‚ÄúSubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a ...


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