United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Renae Pruitt brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for judicial review of the Social Security
Administration’s (SSA) denial of disability benefits.
The SSA Commissioner has answered and filed 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 AFFIRMS the
application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued
an unfavorable decision. (TR. 10-19). The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff’s request for review. (TR. 1-3). Ms.
Pruitt then filed an appeal in this Court, which remanded the
matter for further administrative proceedings. (TR. 373-377).
Following two additional administrative hearings, the ALJ
issued another unfavorable decision. (TR. 297-308). Plaintiff
did not file an appeal with the Appeals Council, but instead
filed the instant action. (ECF No. 1). Thus, it is in this
posture that the case is before the Court once again, with
the second decision of the ALJ being the final decision of
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. § 416.920.
At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 10,
2011, the application date. (TR. 299). At step two, the ALJ
determined Ms. Pruitt had the following severe impairments:
rheumatoid arthritis; migraines; asthma; degenerative disc
disease; and obesity. (TR. 299). 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. 300).
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform her past
relevant work. (TR. 307). The ALJ further concluded that Ms.
Pruitt had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
Lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 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. The claimant
can frequently handle, finger, and feel. The claimant is to
avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, fumes, gases, odors,
and poor ventilation. The claimant can perform unskilled
work. 20 CFR 416.967(b).
on the finding that Ms. Pruitt could not perform her past
relevant work, the ALJ proceeded to step five. There, 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. (TR. 331). Given the
limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the Dictionary
of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR. 331). The ALJ adopted the
testimony of the VE and concluded that Ms. Pruitt was not
disabled based on her ability to perform the identified jobs.
appeal, Ms. Pruitt alleges the ALJ erred: (1) at step three,
(2) in evaluating evidence from a consultative examiner, (3)
in formulating the RFC, and (4) at step five. (ECF No.
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).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation 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).
alleges the ALJ erred at step three in concluding that Ms.
Pruitt did not meet Listing 1.04(A). (ECF No. 15:10-13). The
Court rejects this argument.
Criteria at Step Three
three, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant’s
impairment is “equivalent to one of a number of listed
impairments that the Secretary acknowledged as so severe as
to preclude substantial gainful activity.” Clifton
v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). If this
standard is met, the claimant is considered per se
disabled. Knipe v. Heckler, 755 F.2d 141, 146 (10th
Cir. 1985). The question of whether a claimant meets or
equals a listed impairment is strictly a medical
determination. Ellison v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534,
536 (10th Cir. 1990); 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(c)(3)-(4)
& 416.926(b). “The claimant has the burden at step
three of demonstrating, through medical evidence, that his
impairments “meet all of the specified medical
criteria” contained in a particular listing.
Sullivan v. Zelbey, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990)
(emphasis in original). “An impairment that manifests
only some of those criteria, no matter how severely, does not
the claimant has produced such evidence, the burden is on the
ALJ to identify and discuss any relevant listings.
Fisher-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 733 n. 3
(2005). In doing so, the ALJ must weigh the evidence and make
specific findings to support the step three determination.
Clifton, at 1009.
1.04 outlines the requirements to establish whether a
presumptive disability exists in an individual with a
disorder of the spine. Listing 1.04 can be satisfied three
ways, as set forth in subsections (A)-(C). All three
subsections require that the claimant first establish that he
has a disorder of the spine, “resulting in compromise
of a nerve root (including the cauda equine) or ...