United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER TO GRANT PLAINTIFF'S APPEAL AND
TO REVERSE AND REMAND DECISION OF COMMISSIONER
B. Cohn, United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for decision. Joseph Swift, Jr.
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's
decision finding of not disabled. As set forth below, the
Court GRANTS Plaintiff's appeal and
REVERSES and REMANDS the
Commissioner's decision in this case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
receive disability or supplemental security benefits under
the Social Security Act (“Act”), a claimant bears
the burden to demonstrate an “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).
further provides that an individual:
shall be determined to be under a disability only if his
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Plaintiff must demonstrate the physical or mental impairment
“by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process
to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748,
750 (10th Cir. 1988) (setting forth the five steps in
detail). “If a determination can be made at any of the
steps that a plaintiff is or is not disabled, evaluation
under a subsequent step is not necessary.”
Williams, 844 F.2d at 750. The claimant bears the
burden of proof at steps one through four. See Wells v.
Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1064 at n.1. (10th Cir. 2013). If
the claimant satisfies this burden, then the Commissioner
must show at step five that jobs exist in the national
economy that a person with the claimant's abilities, age,
education, and work experience can perform. Id.
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See e.g., 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (“court shall review only the
question of conformity with such regulations and the validity
of such regulations”); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399
F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is
more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. See id.
Substantial evidence “does not mean a large or
considerable amount of evidence, but rather ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). The Court's review is based on the record, and
the Court will “meticulously examine the record as a
whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from
the [Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ's”)] findings in order to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.” Id. The
Court may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Hackett v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2005). Even if
the Court might have reached a different conclusion, if
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
decision stands. See White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d
903, 908 (10th Cir. 2002).
filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”), alleging he was unable to work due to
mental impairments and back pain beginning August 15, 2011
(as amended). (Tr. 132-54, 169, 998, 1237). Plaintiff
attended two hearings in connection with his claims, which
were denied by an ALJ. (Tr. 54-98, 1081-1125 (March 2013
hearing), 922-77 (September 2016 hearing); Tr. 13-30,
999-1016 (April 2013 ALJ decision), 888-921 (December 2016
ALJ decision)). Plaintiff was 57 years old on the date of the
December 2016 ALJ decision. (See Tr. 20). The
Appeals Council did not assume jurisdiction over the case. 20
C.F.R. § 404.984. Plaintiff did not file exceptions
after the second ALJ decision, which renders this decision
the Acting Commissioner's final decision after remand and
ripe for judicial review. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.987(d);
ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
appeal, Plaintiff alleges three errors: (1) the ALJ failed to
properly develop the record; (2) the ALJ failed to properly
consider the medical source opinions; and (3) the ALJ failed
to properly consider Plaintiff's credibility. (Pl. Br. at
7, Doc. 17).
ALJ's Evaluation of the Medical Evidence
Opinions in the Record
contends the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical
opinions in the record, specifically from Dr. Bauer, Dr.
Matosich, and Dr. Woodcock. (Pl. Br. at 10). In the decision,
the ALJ reviewed ...