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Sarian v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

July 31, 2018

WENDY A. SARIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHON T. 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 supplemental security income 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 the Commissioner's decision and REMANDS for further administrative findings.

         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. 82-95). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-4). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         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. § 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 31, 2014, her application date. (TR. 84). At step two, the ALJ determined Ms. Sarian had the following severe impairments: history of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia; asthma; obesity; bipolar disorder with borderline traits; and post-traumatic stress disorder. (TR. 84). 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. 85).

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

[L]ift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk at least 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, sit for at least 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks, avoid concentrated exposure to such things as dust or fumes, and limited to simple, repetitive tasks and relate to supervisors and coworkers only superficially and not work with the public.

(TR. 86). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Sarian could not perform her past relevant work. (TR. 94). 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. 134-135). Given the limitations, the VE identified two jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. (TR. 136). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and concluded at step five that Ms. Sarian was not disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 95).

         III. 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).

         IV. ...


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