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Moore-Radcliff v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 18, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         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 supplemental security income and 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 issues presented, the Court REVERSES AND REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.


         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. 18-31). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.


         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 her amended onset date of July 12, 2012. (TR. 20). At step two, the ALJ determined Ms. Moore-Radcliff had the following severe impairments: asthma; obesity; fibromyalgia; and systemic lupus erythematosus. (TR. 20). 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. 22).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Moore-Radcliff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(a) except the claimant is able to lift, carry, push, and/or pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; sit for 6 hours of an 8 hour workday; stand and walk for 2 hours of an 8 hour workday; can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and should work in a climate controlled environment with no concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, and gases.

         (TR. 23-24). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a bookkeeper and a secretary. (TR. 28). Even though the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work, she made additional findings at step five. There, the ALJ presented several limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 62-63). Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. (TR. 64-65). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded that in the alternative, at step five, Ms. Moore-Radcliff was not disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 30).


         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).


         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges that the RFC lacked substantial evidence because the ALJ: (1) improperly relied on opinions from two State Agency physicians, (2) improperly discounted opinions from Plaintiff's treating physician, and (3) ignored probative evidence.

         A. The Medical Evidence

         The medical record in this case consists of evidence from: (1) non-examining State Agency reviewing physicians, (2) a one-time consultative examination from Dr. John Saidi, and (3) progress notes and Medical Source ...

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