United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
KARLA M. VILLAREAL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
M. Purcell, Judge.
seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of
the final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying her
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382. Defendant
has answered the Complaint and filed the administrative
record (hereinafter “AR___”), and the parties
have briefed the issues. The matter has been referred to the
undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings
consistent with 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B). For the
following reasons, it is recommended the Commissioner's
decision be reversed and remanded for further administrative
Administrative History and Final Agency Decision
applied for disability benefits on June 20, 2014. AR 193-96.
Plaintiff alleged she became disabled on January 30, 2013,
due to neuralgia, psoriac arthritis, pain in nerves,
fibromyalgia, diabetic, fibro-fog, sleep apnea, and ceberea.
AR 193, 240. The Social Security Administration denied
Plaintiff's application on January 13, 2015, see
Id. at 89-103, 104, and on reconsideration on June 5,
2015. AR 105, 106-22.
appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative
hearing conducted on September 21, 2016, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR 72-88. A
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the
hearing. AR 85-87. The ALJ issued a decision in which he
found Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. AR 52-67. Following the agency's
well-established sequential evaluation procedure, the ALJ
found at the first step that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 30, 2013. AR 57.
At the second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff had severe
impairments of obesity, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia,
depression, and anxiety. Id. At the third step, the
ALJ found these impairments were not per se
disabling as Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
requirements of a listed impairment. Id.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than a full
range of sedentary work. AR 59-60. Specifically, Plaintiff
can occasionally lift and/or carry ten pounds and frequently
lift and/or carry up to ten pounds. AR 60. Plaintiff can
stand and/or walk at least two hours and sit at least six
hours in an eight-hour work day. Id. Additionally,
Plaintiff can frequently, but not constantly, perform work
requiring use of the hands for grasping, handling, and
fingering. Id. Finally, Plaintiff can perform
simple, repetitive tasks and superficially relate to
supervisors and coworkers, but she cannot work with the
on the VE's testimony as to the ability of a hypothetical
individual with Plaintiff's work history, age, education,
and determined RFC, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could perform
the jobs of document specialist and electronics assembler. AR
66. Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had
not been under a disability, as defined by the Social
Security Act, from January 30, 2013 through the date of the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
and therefore the ALJ's decision is the final decision of
the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981;
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir.
raises two issues on appeal. First, Plaintiff contends the
ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of her treating
physician. Plaintiff's Opening Brief (Doc. #15) at 15-24.
Second, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred at step five of the
sequential evaluation process. Doc. #15 at 24-30.
General Legal Standards Guiding Judicial Review
Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision
is 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);
Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.
2003). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d
1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotations
omitted). The “determination of whether the ALJ's
ruling is supported by substantial evidence must be based
upon the record taken as a whole. Consequently, [the Court
must] remain mindful that evidence is not substantial if it
is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record.”
Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (citations, quotations, and
Social Security Act authorizes payment of benefits to an
individual with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 401 et
seq. A disability is an “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see 20 C.F.R.
§404.1509 (duration requirement). Both the
“impairment” and the “inability” must
be expected to last not less than twelve months. Barnhart
v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212 (2002).
agency follows a five-step sequential evaluation procedure in
resolving the claims of disability applicants. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), (b)-(g). “If the
claimant is not considered disabled at step three, but has
satisfied her burden of establishing a prima facie case of
disability under steps one, two, and four, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show the claimant has the [RFC] to
perform other work in the national economy in view of her
age, education, and work experience.” Fischer-Ross
v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005).