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Gorelick v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 13, 2018

KATLYN NICOLE GORELICK, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHON T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has answered and filed a transcript of the administrative record (hereinafter TR.___). The parties have consented to jurisdiction over this matter by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         The parties have briefed their positions, and the matter is now at issue. Based on the Court's review of the record and the issues presented, the Court REVERSES AND REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Ms. Gorelick received supplemental security income based on her disability as a child. (TR. 20). Following Plaintiff's eighteenth birthday, the Social Security Administration determined that Ms. Gorelick was no longer disabled based on a redetermination of disability. (TR. 23). Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (AU) issued an unfavorable decision on the redetermination. (TR. 20-30). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the AU became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The AU followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by agency regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §416.920. The AU bypassed step one, as it is not used for re-determining disability when a claimant attains age eighteen. (TR. 21); 20 C.F.R. §416.987(b). At step two, the AU determined Ms. Gorelick had severe impairments involving cerebral palsy and mild scoliosis. (TR. 23). At step three, the AU found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (TR. 23).

         At step four, the AU concluded that although Ms. Gorelick had no past relevant work, she retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) she can lift, carry, push and pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She can stand and/or walk for a total of 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. She can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can never balance. She can frequently climb stairs. She must avoid unprotected heights.

         (TR. 23, 28). At step five, the AU presented several limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform with her RFC. (TR. 70-75). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR. 75-76). The AU adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms. Gorelick was not disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 29).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges errors at steps three and four, as well as in the AU's evaluation of Ms. Gorelick's testimony.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews the Commissioner's final "decision to determin[e] whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct legal standards were applied." Wilson v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (quotation omitted).

         While the court considers whether the AU followed the applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court will "neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency." Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201 (10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         V. ...


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