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
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. Â§ 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. 149-181). On review, the Appeals
Council remanded the case for a second hearing. (TR.
190-191). Following another administrative hearing, the ALJ
issued a second unfavorable decision. (TR. 27-41). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(TR. 1-3). Thus, the second 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 & 416.920. At step one, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since December 20, 2010, her alleged onset date. (TR. 30). At
step two, the ALJ determined that Ms. Gunther had the
following severe impairments: bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome status-post bilateral surgical release in 2008;
hypertension; osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees;
osteoarthritis of the back; osteoarthritis of the right hip
status-post right hip replacement; and degenerative joint
disease of the right knee status post arthroplasty. (TR. 30).
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. 33).
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Gunther retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except and meaning the claimant can
lift/carry/push/pull 10 pounds occasionally, less than 10
pounds frequently; stand and walk for two hours in an eight
hour workday; sit for six hours in an eight hour workday;
frequently reach, handle, finger and feel bilaterally. In
addition, the claimant requires the use of a cane in the left
upper extremity for ambulation.
(TR. 33-34). With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms.
Gunther was unable to perform her past relevant work. (TR.
39). Thus, the ALJ proceeded to step five and presented the
RFC limitations to a vocational expert (VE) to determine
whether there were other jobs in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform. (TR. 70). Given the limitations, the
VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles. (TR. 73-74). The ALJ adopted the VE's testimony
and concluded that Ms. Gunther was not disabled at step five.
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, Ms. Gunther alleges: (1) the ALJ erred in evaluating
a treating physician's opinion, (2) the RFC failed to
accommodate the use of a cane while standing, and (3) error
at step five. (ECF No. 16:4-15).
ERROR IN THE EVALUATION OF A TREATING PHYSICIAN'S
alleged by Ms. Gunther, the ALJ erred in evaluating the
opinion of treating physician, Dr. Mark Winchester.
The ALJ's Duties in Evaluating A Treating Physician's
of its source, the ALJ has a duty to evaluate every medical
opinion in the record. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d
1208, 1215 (10th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c) & 416.927(c). The weight given each opinion
will vary according to the relationship between the claimant
and medical professional. Hamlin, 365 F.3d at 1215.
For example, in evaluating a treating physician's
opinion, the ALJ must follow a two-pronged analysis. First,
the ALJ must ...