United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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
applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income 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).
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.
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following
an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 19-36). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3).
Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of
THE ADMINISTRATIVE 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); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since January 9, 2012, the alleged disability onset date.
(TR. 21). At step two, the ALJ determined Ms. Laskey had the
following severe impairments: Chiari I malformation; migraine
headaches; degenerative disc disease; and obesity. (TR. 21).
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. 27).
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Laskey retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) in that the claimant is 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 is able
to occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl, stoop, and climb ramps
and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
claimant is able to balance in order to sit, stand, walk, and
perform postural activities that do not involve
extraordinary, additional, or unusual balancing, the claimant
must avoid all exposure to work at unprotected heights and
around hazardous unprotected machinery. The claimant cannot
perform any commercial driving.
(TR. 28). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work. (TR. 34). 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 with her RFC.
(TR. 80). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs
from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR.
80-81). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded
that Ms. Laskey was not disabled based on her ability to
perform the identified jobs. (TR. 35).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in her consideration
of: (1) Plaintiff's migraine headaches, (2)
Plaintiff's mental impairments, and (3) evidence from
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
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).
to Ms. Laskey, the ALJ erred in evaluating Plaintiff's
testimony concerning her migraine headaches. (ECF No.
13:5-10). Plaintiff is correct.
ALJ's Duty to Evaluate Plaintiff's Testimony
Security regulations require a two-step process to evaluate a
claimant's subjective allegations. First, the adjudicator
must consider whether there is an underlying medically
determinable impairment that could reasonably be expected to
produce the individuals' pain. Policy Interpretation
Ruling Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Symptoms in
Disability Claims: Assessing the Credibility of an
Individual's Statements, 1996 WL 374186, at *2 (July 2,
1996) (SSR 96-7p). Second, the adjudicator must evaluate the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the
individual's symptoms to determine the extent to which
the symptoms limit the individual's ability to perform
basic work activities. Id. In doing so, the ALJ must
make a finding on the claimant's credibility based on a