United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Pamela Farris, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's final decision finding she was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by
a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative
Record (AR) [Doc. No. 21], and both parties have briefed
their respective positions. For the reasons stated below, the
Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands
the matter for further proceedings.
11, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits (DIB). See AR 12. The
Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the application
initially and on reconsideration. AR 62, 78. On May 21, 2015,
Plaintiff filed an application for disabled widow's
benefits. See AR 12. Following a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision
dated October 20, 2015. AR 9-29. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. AR 1-5. Thus, the
decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of this final
The ALJ's Decision
followed the sequential evaluation process required by agency
regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d
729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005) (explaining five-step sequential
evaluation process); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since August 31, 2013, the
alleged onset date. AR 15.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of lumbar back pain with radiculopathy; cervical
spine disc herniation at C6-7; and partial torn rotator cuff
on the right, status post arthroscopic reconstructive
surgery. AR 15. At step three, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal
any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. AR 16.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she can
occasionally crouch, crawl, stoop, and use ramps and stairs.
She can never be required to use ladders, ropes or scaffolds.
She must avoid hazards, including unprotected heights or
AR 16-24. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of
performing past relevant work as a social worker, a child
welfare worker, and a child welfare aide. AR 24-25. The ALJ
concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled for
purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 25.
Issues Presented for Judicial Review
alleges the ALJ failed to support his RFC determination by
erring in his credibility analysis, improperly discounting
the opinion of an examining doctor, and not properly
considering Plaintiff's mental health impairments. The
Court finds that the ALJ erred in his credibility analysis
and does not reach the remainder of Plaintiff's claims.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. See 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) (quotation 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). The court “meticulously
examine[s] the record as a whole, including anything that may
undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009)
(citations omitted). While the court considers whether the
ALJ followed the ...