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Halencak v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 6, 2018

JACOB S. HALENCAK, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy 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 applications for disability insurance benefits and 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

         Initially and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 13-21). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-5). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The ALJ 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. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 3, 2014, the alleged disability onset date. (TR. 15). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: minor degenerative changes in the right knee and arthritis in the left great toe. (TR. 16). At step three, the ALJ 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. 17).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work, specifying that:

[Plaintiff] can lift/carry or push/pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. In an 8-hour workday, he is able to stand/walk for 6 hours or sit for 6 hours, all with normal breaks.

(TR. 17). With this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant work as a fast food worker, security guard, and cashier II. (TR. 20).

         The ALJ then proceeded to make made additional, alternative findings at step five. The ALJ consulted with a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Given the limitations presented by the ALJ, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT): electronic assembler, small product assembler, and housekeeper. (TR. 20-21). Relying upon the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled based on his ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 21).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in (1) failing to properly consider, evaluate, and weigh the medical evidence; (2) relying on jobs at steps 4 and 5 that conflict with the DOT; and (3) failing to properly evaluate and consider Plaintiff's credibility and consistency. (ECF No. 14:4-10, 10-12, 12-15). The Court finds that the ALJ, without adequate discussion, failed to include in the RFC certain limitations that are supported by the record and 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 those arguments.

         IV. ...


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