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Smith v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 8, 2019

DARLA SUE SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting 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 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).

         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 AND REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Initially and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 12-21). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). 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. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 10, 2008, her alleged onset date. (TR. 14). At step two, the ALJ determined that Ms. Smith had the following severe impairments: obesity; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; a back disorder; hyperlipidemia; and osteoarthritis of the hands. (TR. 14). 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. 15).

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

[L]ift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The claimant can sit for about 6 hours during an eight-hour workday and can stand/walk for about 6 hours during an eight-hour workday. The claimant can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant can frequently handle and finger as of February 26, 2016 (the claimant had no limitations on handling and fingering prior to said date). 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b).

(TR. 16). At the administrative hearing, the ALJ questioned Ms. Smith and a vocational expert (VE) to assess Plaintiff's past relevant work. (TR. 39-43). In doing so, the VE testified that an individual with Ms. Smith's RFC was capable of performing her past work as a cashier and a dispatcher. (TR. 43-44). Thus, at step four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Smith was not disabled based on her ability to perform her past jobs as a cashier and a dispatcher, as those jobs are actually and generally performed. (TR. 20).

         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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