United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
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
applications 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.
and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following a
hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an
unfavorable decision. (TR. 12-31). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the
decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the
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 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that
during the relevant time, there existed a continuous 12-month
period during which Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity. (TR. 14). At step two, the ALJ determined
that Mr. Copelin had the following severe impairments:
osteoarthrosis and dysfunction of major joints. (TR. 15). At
step three, the ALJ found that 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 (TR. 15).
four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Copelin retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b). The claimant can lift/carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can stand/walk, or sit
for 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday except the claimant can
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb
ramps and stairs; frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl;
and frequently perform bilateral handling.
(TR. 56). At the administrative hearing, the ALJ presented
this RFC to a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether
Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work. (TR. 83) With
these limitations, the VE opined that Mr. Copelin was able to
perform his past relevant work as a motor vehicle sales
representative. (TR. 83). The ALJ adopted the VE's
testimony and concluded that Mr. Copelin was not disabled at
step four. (TR. 30).
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).
appeal, Mr. Copelin alleges: (1) the ALJ erred in her
evaluation of evidence from two examining physicians, (2) the
ALJ erred in her evaluation of Plaintiff's subjective
allegations, and (3) the RFC lacked substantial evidence.
(ECF No. 15:7-12).
THE ALJ'S EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE FROM EXAMINING
Copelin alleges legal error in the ALJ's evaluation of
opinions from examining physicians Dr. Karen Perl and Dr.
ALJ's Duty to Evaluate Medical Opinions
must evaluate every medical opinion in the record, although
the weight given each opinion will vary according to the
relationship between the disability claimant and the medical
professional. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208,
1215 (10th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d). In
determining what weight to accord any medical
opinion, an ALJ must consider:
(1) the length of the treatment relationship and the
frequency of examination;
(2) the nature and extent of the treatment relationship;
(3) the degree to which the physician's opinion is
supported by relevant evidence;
(4) the consistency between the opinion and the record as a
(5) whether or not the physician is a specialist in the area
upon which an opinion is rendered; and
(6) other factors brought to the ALJ's attention which
tend to support or contradict the opinion.
Hamlin, at 1215, n. 7.; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c) & 416.927(c).
the ALJ may not selectively review any medical opinion and
must provide a proper explanation to support her findings.
SeeChapo v. Astrue, 682 F.3d 1285, 1292
(10th Cir. 2012) (“We have repeatedly held that [a]n
ALJ is not entitled to pick and choose through an
uncontradicted medical opinion, taking only the parts that
are favorable to a finding of nondisability.”);
Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1010 (10th Cir.
1996) (the ALJ must “discuss[ ] the evidence supporting
[the] decision” and must also “discuss the
uncontroverted evidence he chooses not to rely upon, as well
as significantly probative evidence [the ALJ]