United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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
application 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).
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.
September 24, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for Title
II disability insurance benefits. (TR. 31). The application
was denied at the initial level on December 14, 2015 and was
not thereafter appealed. (TR. 31). On May 18, 2017, Plaintiff
filed a second application for Title II disability insurance
benefits, alleging that he became disabled on September 24,
2014. (TR. 31). Initially and on reconsideration, the Social
Security Administration denied Plaintiff's second
application for benefits. Following a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable
decision. (TR. 31-45). In doing so, the ALJ stated that he
would “only consider the period beginning December 15,
2015, the beginning of the un-adjudicated period”
because of the preclusive and binding effect of the first
application's denial which was not appealed. (TR. 31).
Because Mr. Geist had acquired sufficient quarters of
coverage to remain insured through December 31, 2015, he was
required to establish disability on or before that date to be
entitled to a period of disability. (TR. 31). Ultimately, the
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from September
24, 2014 through December 31, 2015. (TR. 44).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
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. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period
of disability-his alleged onset date of September 24, 2014
through his date last insured of December 31, 2015. (TR. 34).
At step two, the ALJ determined that Mr. Geist had the
following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of
the knees; fibromyalgia; back disorder; asthma; migraines;
right shoulder disorder; obstructive sleep apnea; chronic
maxillary sinusitis; obesity; major depressive disorder; and
bipolar disorder. (TR. 34). At step three, the ALJ found that
during the period of disability, 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 during the period of disability. (TR. 35).
four, the ALJ concluded that through the date last insured,
Mr. Geist retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
[L]ift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently. The claimant can sit for about six hours during
an eight-hour workday and can stand and walk for about six
hours during an eight-hour workday. The claimant can
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
The claimant can occasionally reach overhead with his upper
right extremity. The claimant is to avoid concentrated
exposure to dusts, gases, fumes, odors, and poor ventilation.
The claimant can understand, remember, carry out simple
routine, and repetitive tasks. The claimant can relate to
others on a superficial work basis. The claimant can adapt to
a work setting.
(TR. 38). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Geist
could not perform any past relevant work. (TR. 43).
five, the ALJ presented the RFC limitations to a vocational
expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the
national economy that Plaintiff could perform during the
period of disability. (TR. 75-76). Given the limitations, the
VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles. (TR. 76). The ALJ adopted the testimony of the VE and
concluded that Mr. Geist was not disabled at step five based
on his ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 44).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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). Under the
“substantial evidence” standard, a court looks to
an existing administrative record and asks whether it
contains “sufficien[t] evidence” to support the
agency's factual determinations. Biestek v.
Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019).
“Substantial evidence … is more than a mere
scintilla … and means only-such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct.
at 1154 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
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).