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Starkey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

February 2, 2018

LOIS ANN STARKEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Lois Ann Starkey, seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of her applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). 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. 14], and both parties have briefed their positions.[1] For the reasons stated below, the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands the matter for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural Background

         On July 28, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB or SSI. AR 14-22. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 2-4. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision constitutes the Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff timely commenced this action for judicial review.

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Following this process, the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements for DIB through December 31, 2017, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 15, 2013, her alleged amended onset date. AR 16.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis with back pain. Id. at 17.[2] At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 17-18.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding that she could perform “a range of ‘light work'” except:

[Plaintiff could] only: stand and/or walk for a total of 2 hours in an 8-hour workday and can sit the remainder with normal breaks; occasionally stoop and crouch; frequently handle and finger; must avoid concentrated exposure to irritants, such as dusts, fumes, smoke, gases, and poor ventilation; must avoid concentrated exposure to high humidity and wetness; and must avoid exposure to temperatures of more than 80 degrees and less than 60 degrees.

Id. at 18-19.

         At step four, relying on a vocational expert's (VE) testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work, not as she performed it, but as it is normally performed in the national economy. Id. at 21-22. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 22.

         III. Claim Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred in rejecting the consultative examiner's opinion that she could only stand and/or walk for fifteen minutes at a time, and for only one hour in an eight-hour workday. See Pl.'s Br. at 7-13.

         IV. Stand ...


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