United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lori Leigh Barham 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, and for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, id. §§ 1381-1383f. Upon review of the
administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter “R.
”), and the arguments and authorities submitted
by the parties, the Court reverses the Commissioner's
decision and remands the case for further proceedings.
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her DIB and SSI applications on June 5,
2015. R. 12, 183-95. In both applications, Plaintiff alleged
a disability onset date of February 28, 2015. R. 12, 183,
190. Following denial of her application initially and on
reconsideration, a hearing was held before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”) on September 7, 2016. R. 29-49,
107-11, 112-15, 120-22, 123-25. In addition to Plaintiff, a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the
hearing. R. 45-48. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
January 31, 2017. R. 9-23.
Commissioner of Social Security uses a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine entitlement to disability
benefits. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052
(10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. R.
14. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe
medically determinable impairments of: degenerative disc
disease, status post lumbar fusion; obesity; chronic pain
syndrome; migraines; hidradenitis suppurativa; bipolar
disorder; major depressive disorder; and attention deficit
disorder. R. 14-18. At step three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiffs condition did not meet or equal any of the
presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”). R.
next assessed Plaintiffs residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all her medically determinable
impairments. R. 19-22. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity to
lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds
frequently. [Plaintiff] can sit for about 6 hours during an
eight-hour workday and can stand and walk for at least 2
hours during an eight-hour workday. [Plaintiff] can
occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. [Plaintiff] cannot climb ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can understand, remember, and carry
out simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. [Plaintiff] can
relate to supervisors and co-workers on a superficial work
basis. [Plaintiff] can respond to usual work situations.
[Plaintiff] can have occasional contact with the general
R. 19. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
capable of performing her past relevant work. R. 22.
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. R. 22-23. Relying upon the VE's testimony
regarding the degree of erosion to the unskilled sedentary
occupational base caused by Plaintiff's additional
limitations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform the
sedentary, unskilled occupations of table worker, document
preparer, and call-out operator, and that such occupations
offer jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. R. 22-23.
request for review by the SSA Appeals Council was denied on
December 26, 2017, and the unfavorable determination of the
ALJ stands as the Commissioner's final decision. R. 1-6;
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
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 erred by: (1) failing
to consider the limitations stemming from Plaintiff's
hidradenitis suppurativa, and not properly evaluating whether
Plaintiff's condition met or equaled Listing 8.06; (2)
utilizing “boilerplate” language in evaluating
the opinions of nonexamining state-agency physicians; and (3)
assigning insufficient weight ...