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Hilliard v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 8, 2018

KAMMIE RAYLENE HILLIARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Kammie Raylene Hilliard, 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. 16], and both parties have briefed their positions.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands the matter for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural Background

         On February 23, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to DIB or SSI. AR 20-33. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 1-4. 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 of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2007, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 20, 2003, her alleged onset date. AR 22.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the right hip, high blood pressure, generalized anxiety disorder, organic brain disorder with associated migraines, mild cognitive disorder, and an affective disorder. Id. at 22-23. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 23-24.

The ALJ next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), concluding that:
[Plaintiff can] perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except [Plaintiff] is able to carry out simple instructions but not detailed instructions; needs to be employed at a low stress job that only occasionally requires decision making or has changes in the work setting; and can only occasionally have interaction with the public, coworkers, or supervisors.

Id. at 24.

         At step four, relying on a vocational expert's (VE) testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is able to perform her past relevant work as a spot welder and mail sorter. Id. at 31. The ALJ proceeded to make an alternative step-five finding and, relying on the VE's testimony, found Plaintiff can perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at 31-32. Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform the requirements of representative jobs such as housekeeper, hand packager, and car attendant. Id. at 32. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Id. at 33.

         III. Claims Presented for Judicial Review

         Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to provide Plaintiff with a full and fair hearing; (2) failing to develop an adequate record; (3) determining that Plaintiff was not fully credible; and (4) making step-four and step-five findings that were not supported by substantial evidence. Pl.'s Br. [Doc. No. 20] at 11-33. The Court agrees that the ALJ's findings at step four and step five were not supported by substantial evidence, thus remand is warranted. Because Plaintiff's other assertions of error may be affected by the ALJ's treatment of the case on remand, the Court does not reach these arguments.

         IV. Stand ...


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