United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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 disability insurance benefits 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).
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.
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's application for benefits. Following an
administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 95-107). On appeal, the
Appeals Council remanded the case for a second hearing. (TR.
114-115). A second administrative hearing was held and the
same ALJ issued a second unfavorable decision. (TR. 10-24).
The Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for
review. (TR. 1-6). Thus, the second decision of the ALJ dated
November 22, 2016 became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324,
1327 (10th Cir. 2011).
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
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. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date of June 2, 2012. (TR. 13). At step two, the ALJ
determined that Ms. Griffin had the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus; diabetes neuropathy;
Dupuytren's contracture of the hand; and obesity. (TR.
13). 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. 18). At step four, the ALJ
concluded that Ms. Griffin retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except
occasional overhead reaching with right arm and would need
the left hand to stabilize any such reaching and occasional
19). With this RFC, a vocational expert (VE) testified that
Ms. Griffin could perform her past relevant work as a
“management trainee, ” as that job had been
actually performed. (TR. 61-63). The ALJ adopted the VE's
testimony and at step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was not disabled based on her ability to perform her past
relevant work. (TR. 23-24).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ: (1) failed to comply with
the Appeals Council's remand order and (2) erred at step
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
the court considers whether the ALJ 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).
THE ALJ FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE APPEALS COUNCIL'S
REMAND ORDER AND ERRED AT STEP FOUR
Griffin alleges that the ALJ: (1) failed to comply with the
Appeals Council's order to develop the record regarding
Plaintiff's past relevant work as a “restaurant
trainee” and (2) erred at step four in evaluating
whether Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant
work. (ECF No. 11:5-19). The Court agrees.
The Appeals Council's Remand Order
first decision, the ALJ had found Ms. Griffin not disabled at
step four, due to her ability to perform her past relevant
work as a “restaurant trainee, ” Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (DOT) #189.167-018. (TR. 107). In its
remand order, the Appeals Council questioned whether the job
of “restaurant ...