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Bowles v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 9, 2018

CHARLES BOWLES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHONT. 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 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).

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

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Initially 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. 15-29). Subsequent to the decision, the Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner. See Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011).

         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. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the alleged period of disability-April 1, 2011 through December 31, 2014. (TR. 17). At step two, the ALJ determined that Mr. Bowles had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; degenerative joint disease; prediabetes; and hypertension. (TR. 17). 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 Mr. Bowles retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; frequently climb ramps or stairs, stoop, balance, crouch, crawl, or kneel; frequently reaching, handling and fingering; occasional overhead reaching with the right upper extremity.

(TR. 19). Based on this RFC, the ALJ concluded, at step four, that Plaintiff was not disabled based on his ability to perform his past relevant work. (TR. 29).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges error at step four.[1]

         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 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).

         V. ERROR AT STEP FOUR

         Mr. Bowles alleges that the ALJ erred at step four, in finding that Plaintiff could return to his past ...


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