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
applications for 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 the
Commissioner's decision and REMANDS for
further administrative findings.
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following
an administrative hearing on February 10, 2016, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued fully favorable
decision. (TR. 161- 169). On its own motion, the Appeals
Council remanded the case to the same ALJ for further
proceedings. (TR. 172-177). Following a second administrative
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 15-29).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the second decision of the ALJ
became the final decision of the Commissioner.
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 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since September 20, 2013, his alleged onset date. (TR. 19).
At step two, the ALJ determined Mr. Belcher had the following
severe impairments: affective disorder; anxiety disorder;
ischemic heart disease; tendonitis of the shoulders; mild
intellectual disability; obesity; and right knee arthritis.
(TR. 19). 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. 21).
four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Belcher retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except that his ability to perform the full range
of light work is diminished by nonexertional limitations. He
can reach overhead with the right arm frequently. He is able
to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions
but not detailed instructions. His ability to work is limited
to simple, routine, repetitive tasks performed in a work
environment free of fast-paced production requirements,
involving only simple, work-related decisions, and with few,
if any, workplace changes. He cannot interact with the
public. He cannot perform work involving reading and writing
in the vocational context.
(TR. 24) (footnote omitted). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded
that Mr. Belcher could not perform his past relevant work.
(TR. 27). Thus, at the hearing, the ALJ presented the
limitations set forth in the RFC to a vocational expert (VE)
to determine whether there were other jobs in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 59). Given the
limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary
of Occupational Titles. (TR. 59-60). The ALJ adopted the
testimony of the VE and at step five concluded that Mr.
Belcher was not disabled based on his ability to perform the
identified jobs. (TR. 28-29).
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).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges error in the consideration of: (1)
two medical opinions, (2) the Plaintiff's subjective
allegations, and (3) the Medical-Vocational Guidelines.
THE ALJ'S EVALUATION OF TWO MEDICAL OPINIONS
Belcher alleges legal error in the ALJ's evaluation of
opinions from: (1) treating physician, Dr. Kenneth
Schaufelberger and (2) examining physician, Dr. Alison
Walgama. The Court finds reversible error in the
consideration of these opinions.
ALJ's Duty to Evaluate Medical Opinions
must evaluate every medical opinion in the record, although
the weight given each opinion will vary according to the
relationship between the disability claimant and the medical
professional. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208,
1215 (10th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d). In
determining what weight to accord any ...