United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
EMILY E. DICENSO, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Emily E. DiCenso, 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. 9], 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.
September 13, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an
application for supplemental security income (SSI), alleging
disability beginning October 1, 2011. See AR 44. The
Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the application
initially and on reconsideration. AR 138-139. Following a
hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an
unfavorable decision dated December 29, 2015. AR 41-61. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR
1-7. 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. §
416.920. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since September 13, 2013, the
application date. AR 46.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, status
post 2007 spinal fusion and revision in 2008; irritable bowel
syndrome and colon resection with pelvic floor dysfunction;
migraines; episodes of syncope; and status post bone spur
removal. AR 46-48. 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 48-49.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except: never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds: occasionally climb ramps
and stairs: occasionally balance and stoop; never kneel,
crouch, or crawl: occasional exposure to hazards such as
hazardous moving machinery, raw chemicals or solutions, and
unprotected heights; and allow for a sit stand option
alternatively at will one time per hour for 5 minutes.
AR 49-54. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had no past relevant
work. AR 54. 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-addresser, touch up screener, and order clerk.
AR 54-55. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was
not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 55.
Issues Presented for Judicial Review
seeks judicial review raising two claims of error. First,
Plaintiff claims the ALJ erred by failing to determine that
she was disabled at step three. Next, Plaintiff contends the
ALJ erred in her credibility analysis. The Court finds no
error at step three. However, the Court finds the ALJ erred
in assessing Plaintiff's credibility, thus remand is
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 ...