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Davis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

February 15, 2018

MATTHEW A. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Matthew A. Davis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Social Security Administration's final decision finding he 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. 15], and both parties have briefed their respective 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 February 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 54, 68. Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision dated September 18, 2015. AR 9-29. 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.

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ 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 February 11, 2014, the amended alleged onset date. AR 14.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of malignant tumor, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse. AR 15.[2] 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 15-17.

         The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding:

[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) as follows:
He can lift/carry up to 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently; push/pull limitations are consistent with lift/carry limitations; stand/walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday; sit for eight hours out of an eight-hour workday; can perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks; must be in a habituated work setting and object oriented setting; only superficial contact with co-workers and supervisors and no contact with the public.

AR 17-24. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. AR 24. 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-hand packager, warehouse worker, and kitchen helper. AR 24-25. The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. AR 25.

         III. Issues Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in weighing the opinion evidence regarding his mental conditions from his treating physician, the consultative examiner, and the state-agency physicians. Plaintiff also asserts the RFC assessment was not supported by the evidence. The Court finds that the ALJ erred in weighing the opinion of his treating physician. The Court does not reach the Plaintiff's other allegations.

         IV. Stand ...


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