United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CINDY D. BUTTS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Cindy D. Butts 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
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.
12, hereinafter “R. ”),  and the arguments and
authorities submitted by the parties, the Court finds that
the decision of the Commissioner should be reversed and the
matter remanded for further administrative proceedings.
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed her DIB application on December 11, 2014,
ultimately alleging disability beginning October 27, 2014. R.
13, 184-90, 216. Following denial of her application
initially and on reconsideration, a hearing was held before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on June 10,
2016. R. 13, 30-95, 123-27, 130-32. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on August 18, 2016. R. 10-24.
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. § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since October 27, 2014, the amended alleged disability-onset
date. R. 16. At step two, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease, affective disorder, anxiety-related disorder,
and personality disorder with cluster B traits. R. 16-17. 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. 17-19.
next assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) based on all of her medically
determinable impairments. R. 19-22. The ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to
perform medium exertion work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(c), with the following mental abilities: the
claimant retains sufficient concentration, memory, and
general cognitive abilities to understand, remember, and
carry out “simple” and some, but not all, more
complex tasks, involving objects and/or non-complex tasks.
“Simple” tasks means unskilled entry-level SVP
one work, which requires only a simple demonstration, and
unskilled entry-level SVP two work, which can be learned in
30 days or less. The claimant can also perform
“detailed” tasks involving objects or non-complex
tasks that are SVP three and four semi-skilled jobs. The
claimant retains adequate social skills to respond/relate
appropriately to supervisors and coworkers on a
“superficial work basis, ” i.e., brief, succinct,
cursory, concise communication relevant to the task being
performed. The claimant is aware of basic hazards and can
adapt to a work environment that does not involve numerous
changes in daily routines are [sic] work duties.
R. 19-20. At step four, the ALJ made no findings concerning
Plaintiff's ability to perform her past relevant work. R.
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. Taking into consideration the hearing
testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”) regarding
the degree of erosion to the unskilled medium occupational
base that is caused by Plaintiff's additional
limitations, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform
occupations such as laundry worker, automobile detailer, and
hand packager, all of which offer jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. R. 23. On this
basis, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from
October 27, 2014, through the date of the decision. R. 23.
Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was
denied, and the unfavorable determination of the ALJ stands
as the Commissioner's final decision. R. 1-7;
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
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).
request for judicial review, Plaintiff argues that (1) the
ALJ erred by failing to discuss evidence probative of
Plaintiff's physical symptoms and impairments; (2) the
RFC finding is not supported by substantial evidence; and (3)
the ALJ failed to adequately develop the record regarding
Plaintiff's physical impairments. See Pl.'s
Br. (Doc. No. 16) at 11-23.