United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dawn Mitchell 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
(“SSA”) denying Plaintiff's applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434. Upon review of the administrative record (Doc. No.
15, hereinafter “R. ”) and the arguments and
authorities submitted by the parties, the Court reverses the
Commissioner's decision and remands the matter for
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her application for DIB on February 12,
2014, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2014, as
amended. R. 19, 204-12, 230, 231-33, 242-55. Following denial
of Plaintiff's application initially and on
reconsideration, an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) held a hearing. R. 46-85, 114-18, 123-25.
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 28, 2016. R.
Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process
to determine eligibility for disability benefits. Wall v.
Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520, . 1520(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her alleged onset date of
January 1, 2014, through her date last insured of December
31, 2014. R. 21. At step two, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the severe impairments of: degenerative disc
disease; post 2008 lumbar fusion; osteoarthritis;
degenerative joint disease in hip; and asthma. R. 21-24. At
step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiffs impairments
did not meet or equal any of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. R. 24-25.
next assessed Plaintiffs residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of her impairments. R.
25-38. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform
sedentary work subject to the additional limitations that
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb
ramps and stairs; frequently balance; occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, or crawl; tolerate occasional exposure to
environmental irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts and
R. 25; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) (defining
“sedentary work”). At step four, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work
and that transferability of job skills was not a material
issue. R. 38.
five, the ALJ considered whether there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff-in
view of her age, education, work experience, and RFC-could
perform. Taking into consideration the hearing testimony of a
vocational expert regarding the degree of erosion to the
unskilled sedentary occupational base caused by
Plaintiff's additional limitations, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff could perform occupations such as telephone
information clerk, document preparer, and food- and-beverage
order clerk, all of which offer jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. R. 38-39. On
this basis, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not been
under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act,
from January 1, 2014, the alleged onset date, through
December 31, 2014, the date last insured. R. 39. The SSA
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's unfavorable decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. R. 1-6; see also 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981. This action for judicial review followed.
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether
correct legal standards were applied. 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) (internal quotation marks 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)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The court
“meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, ”
including any evidence “that may undercut or detract
from the ALJ's findings, ” “to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.” Wall,
561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). While a
reviewing court considers whether the Commissioner followed
applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of
evidence in disability cases, the court does not reweigh the
evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272
(10th Cir. 2008).
action, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ failed to properly
consider various medical opinions, resulting in the improper
omission of certain restrictions from the RFC assessment.
See Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. 18) at 6-20. The Court
Whether the RFC should have included restrictions ...