United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CHERYL A. MARLER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Cheryl A. Marler, 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. 10], 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.
April 18, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits (DIB). See AR 21.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the
application initially and on reconsideration. AR 70-77.
Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued
an unfavorable decision dated September 21, 2015. AR 18-37.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. AR 1-6. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the
final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of this final agency decision.
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 during the
“‘relevant period' of February 15, 2007[, ]
through her date last insured of December 31, 2008.” AR
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety
disorder, and personality disorder. AR 24. 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 26-27.
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 with
lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time; frequent lifting or
carrying up to 10 pounds; standing/walking 6 hours out of an
8-hour workday; sitting 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday; and
no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] is able
to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions
consistent with unskilled work that is repetitive and routine
in nature and able to relate and interact with coworkers and
supervisors on a work-related basis only with no to minimal
interaction with the general public. [Plaintiff] can adapt to
a work situation with these limitations/restrictions and her
medications would not preclude her from remaining reasonably
alert to perform required functions presented in a work
AR 27-31. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work. AR 31. Relying on the testimony of a
vocational expert (VE), the ALJ found there were other jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff could perform-inspector hand packager, mail
sorter, and electrical accessories assembler. AR 31-32. The
ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled for
purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 33.
Issue Presented for Judicial Review
seeks judicial review raising two claims of error. First,
Plaintiff claims the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of a
consultative psychological examiner leading to error in the
RFC. Second, Plaintiff claims that she is unable to work any
of the jobs the ALJ identified at step five.
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 ...