United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
LISA C. TAULBEE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lisa C. Taulbee 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 application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f. Upon review of the administrative record (Doc.
No. 12, hereinafter “R. ”),  and the arguments
and authorities submitted by the parties, the Court reverses
the Commissioner's decision and remands the case for
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her SSI application on February 19, 2015,
ultimately alleging disability beginning May 4, 2015. R. 22,
42, 44, 186-191. Following denial of her application
initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was held before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on August 31,
2016. R. 40-64, 80-98, 99-118, 121-24, 128-30. The ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision on December 12, 2016. R. 19-34.
Commissioner 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. § 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since she had filed her application on February 19, 2015. R.
24. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
severe impairments of: diabetes mellitus, hypertension,
degenerative disc disease, migraines, heart disorder,
obesity, major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and
generalized anxiety disorder. R. 24. At step three, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff's condition 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 Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of her medically
determinable impairments. R. 26-32. The ALJ found:
[Plaintiff] has the [RFC] to lift and carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. [Plaintiff] can sit
for about 6 hours during an eight-hour workday and can stand
and walk for about 6 hours during an eight-hour workday.
[Plaintiff] can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. [Plaintiff] is to avoid concentrated
exposure to hazards, such as unprotected heights and heavy
machinery. [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 no contact with the general public.
R. 26. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past
relevant work. R. 32.
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. 32-33. Relying upon the testimony provided by a
vocational expert (“VE”) regarding the degree of
erosion to the unskilled light occupational base caused by
Plaintiff's additional limitations, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff could perform unskilled light occupations such
as bakery worker, collator operator, or mail sorter, and that
such occupations offer jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy. R. 33.
therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not been disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the
relevant period. R. 33-34. Plaintiff's request for review
by the SSA Appeals Council was denied, and the unfavorable
determination of the ALJ stands as the Commissioner's
final decision. See R. 1-7; 20 C.F.R. §
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 contends that the ALJ improperly rejected
the opinion of consulting psychologist Julie Wallace, PhD,
and failed to explain the weight he afforded her ...