United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN, United States District Judge.
John Alan Owen 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. Having reviewed the administrative record (Doc. No.
12, hereinafter “R. ”),  and the arguments and
authorities submitted by the parties, the Court reverses the
Commissioner’s decisions and remands the case for
HISTORY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
protectively filed his DIB application on February 15, 2015,
and ultimately alleged disability beginning January 6, 2015.
R. 12, 28, 155-56. The SSA denied his application initially
and on reconsideration. R. 64-91. At Plaintiff’s
request, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held
a hearing on December 13, 2016, after which the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on April 4, 2017. R. 9-63.
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process in
determining Plaintiff was not entitled 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 during the relevant time period. R. 14. At
step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe
impairments of fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathy. R. 14.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of any of the presumptively
disabling impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. R. 14-15.
next assessed Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) during the relevant period, based on all
of his medically determinable impairments, and found that
Plaintiff had the ability to perform light work “except
no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds.” R. 15;
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b).
upon the hearing testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ found at step four that Plaintiff
could perform his past relevant work as a chaplain. R. 19.
Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the
relevant period. R. 19-20. The SSA Appeals Council denied
review, R. 1-5, and the ALJ’s unfavorable determination
stands as the Commissioner’s final decision.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
Court’s judicial 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, ” in determining whether
the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation
marks omitted). Though 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 alleges that the ALJ committed legal error
by failing to properly evaluate the December 2016 Medical
Assessment Form (the “2016 MAF”) of
Plaintiff’s treating physician, R. Michael Eimen, DO.
See Pl.’s Br. (Doc. No. 19) at 7-12.
The Relevant Record
record contains evidence of Plaintiff’s treatment by
Dr. Eimen for various issues, but chiefly fibromyalgia and
pain, from January 2015 through December 2016. In January
2015, Plaintiff was treated for fibromyalgia. R. 267-68. A
few months later, Plaintiff returned with complaints
including pain; Dr. Eimen ordered a brain MRI and adjusted
the prescribed medications. R. 284-87. In May 2015, Dr. Eimen
noted Plaintiff’s complaints of dizziness, pain, and
sleep apnea, as well as the fact that Plaintiff was
undergoing laser treatment for fibromyalgia trigger points.
R. 282-83. The next ...