United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Kelly Rae Hamm, 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.
January 28, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits (DIB). See AR 18.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the
application initially and on reconsideration. AR 95, 104.
Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued
an unfavorable decision dated January 28, 2016. AR 13-36. 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. §
404.1520. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since March 9, 2011, the
amended alleged onset date. AR 18.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of Chiari malformation, pseudo tumor cerebri,
bilateral optic nerve drusen, shopping cart syndrome,
headaches, hypertension, degenerative disc disease, systemic
lupus erythematosus, and fibromyalgia with fatigue. AR
18-20. 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 20-22.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except: lift,
carry, push, and pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10
pounds frequently; stand and walk for 2 out of 8 hours; sit
for 6 hours of an 8 hour day; no climbing ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; no balancing; occasional climb stairs and ramps;
occasional kneel, crouch, crawl and stoop; no unprotected
heights, no hazardous unprotected machinery; and no
22-29. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert (VE),
the ALJ determined Plaintiff was able to perform past
relevant work as a receptionist and as an automobile service
cashier/secretary. AR 29. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that
Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social
Security Act. AR 30.
Issues Presented for Judicial Review
contends the ALJ erred in her credibility analysis and in
weighing the opinions of three of Plaintiff's treating
physicians. The Court finds the ALJ erred in her credibility
analysis and reverses and remands on that basis. The Court
does not reach the merits of the remaining issue.
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 ...