United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
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 AND
REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.
October 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income. (TR. 12). On June
7, 2016, Ms. Williams applied for disabled widow's
benefits. (TR. 12). Initially and on reconsideration, the
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income. (TR. 12). Subsequent to Ms.
Williams' request for an administrative hearing, her
claim for disabled widow's benefits was escalated to the
hearing level to be heard in conjunction with her other
claims. (TR. 12). Following a hearing, an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision on all three
claims. (TR. 12-23). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the
decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
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 October 21, 2015, her alleged onset date. (TR. 15). At
step two, the ALJ determined that Ms. Williams had the
following severe impairments: obesity and disorder of the
lumbar spine. (TR. 15). 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. 18).
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Williams had retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform “light
work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except
that she can frequently stoop, crouch, and crawl. (TR. 19).
administrative hearing, a vocational expert (VE) described
Ms. Williams' past relevant work as site manager,
(performed at the sedentary level) and transportation director,
(performed at the light level). The VE also testified that an
individual with Ms. Williams' RFC could perform these
jobs. (TR. 66). Accordingly, at step four, the ALJ concluded
that Ms. Williams was not disabled based on her ability to
perform her past work. (TR. 22-23).
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 the ALJ erred in her consideration
of Ms. Williams' urinary incontinence and subjective
ERROR IN THE CONSIDERATION OF PLAINTIFF'S URINARY
December 21, 2016 administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified
that she suffered from urinary incontinence which had
“gotten worse over the last two or three years.”
(TR. 59). According to Ms. Williams, upon complaints of the
incontinence worsening, doctors prescribed medication. (TR.
59). Indeed, the record reflects that Plaintiff's
physician prescribed Oxybutynin for the incontinence on March
6, 2016. (TR. 507). Even with medication, however, Plaintiff
testified that she suffered “accidents” 3-4 times
per week. (TR. 60).
two, the ALJ concluded that the incontinence was not a severe
impairment. (TR. 16). In doing so, the ALJ provided four
• Plaintiff wore protective undergarments only
“sometimes, ” because she was unable to afford
• Plaintiff failed to report symptoms until April 2016;
• In September 2016, Plaintiff reported that her
medication was effective in controlling her symptoms; and
• Plaintiff stated that her medication had not
increased, despite her allegations that the incontinence had
worsened over a period of 2 to 3 years.
(TR. 15-16). Ultimately, at step two, the ALJ stated that the
incontinence was “non-severe in nature, as there is no
indication that [Plaintiff] would have more than mild, if any
work-related limitations secondary to same.” (TR. 16).
Thereafter, the ALJ made no further mention of
Plaintiff's incontinence and did not include any
work-related limitations for the impairment in the RFC.
Williams' argument regarding the ALJ's consideration
of the urinary incontinence is two-fold: (1) that the ALJ
erred in failing to find the urinary incontinence as a severe
impairment at step two and (2) that the ALJ erred by failing
to consider the incontinence or include any related
limitations at step four. (ECF No. 17:14-17). The Court
rejects the step two argument, but concludes that the ALJ
erred at step four.
argues a lack of substantial evidence supporting each of the
ALJ's rationales for deeming the incontinence as
“non-severe.” (ECF No. 17:14-17). But even
assuming the truth of Ms. Williams' argument, such error
would be deemed harmless based on the ALJ's finding of
additional severe impairments at step two. “[O]nce an
ALJ finds that a claimant has at least one severe impairment,
he does not err in failing to designate other disorders as
severe at step two, because at later steps the agency
‘will consider the combined effect of all the
claimant's impairments without regard to whether any such
impairment, if considered separately, would be of sufficient
severity.'” Barrett v. Astrue, 340
Fed.Appx. 481, 484 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting 20 C.F.R. §
404.1523). Consequently, the undersigned “can easily
dispose of” Plaintiff's step-two challenge.
Oldham v. Astrue,509 F.3d 1254, at 1256 (10th Cir.