United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Myrna Eshragh, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's final decision finding she was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this matter by
a United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). The Commissioner has filed the Administrative
Record (AR) [Doc. No. 6], and both parties have briefed their
respective positions.For the reasons stated below, the Court
reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands the
matter for further proceedings.
1, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits. See AR 13. The Social
Security Administration denied the application initially and
on reconsideration. AR 71, 80. Following a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision
dated November 21, 2016. AR 10-31. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. AR 1-5. Thus, the
decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
Commissioner. Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327
(10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of this
final agency decision.
The ALJ's Decision
followed the sequential evaluation process required by agency
regulations. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d
729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005) (explaining five-step sequential
evaluation process); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. The ALJ first determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since August 1, 2011, her
alleged onset date. AR 15.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of disorders of the back (lumbar spine),
dysfunction of the major joints (right shoulder, status post
arthroscopic surgical intervention), peripheral neuropathy
(bilateral lower extremities), bilateral hands (status post
carpal tunnel release), left knee, left ankle, and obesity.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal
any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. AR 16.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
[Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) with the
following limitations: occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
avoid the climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; avoid no
more than occasional reaching overhead with bilateral upper
extremities; frequently use the bilateral upper extremities
for reaching otherwise; frequently use the bilateral upper
extremities for fingering; occasional stooping, kneeling[, ]
crouching, and crawling, and occasional use of the bilateral
lower extremities for foot controls.
16-26. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the
ALJ then found Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work
as a receptionist, customer service representative, and
telephone solicitor. AR 26. The ALJ concluded, therefore,
that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social
Security Act. AR 27.
Issue Presented for Judicial Review
contends the ALJ erred in formulating the RFC because she
failed to weigh the opinions of a treating physician.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. See Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758,
760 (10th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). A decision is not
based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other
evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of
evidence supporting it. Branum v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d
1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004). The court “meticulously
examine[s] the record as a whole, including anything that may
undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009)
(citations omitted). While the court considers whether the
ALJ followed the ...