United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Shawn Williams 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 REVERSES AND
REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.
and on reconsideration, the SSA denied Plaintiff's
application for benefits. Following a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable
decision. (TR. 13-25). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (TR. 1-3).
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 January 3,
2016, the application date. (TR. 15). At step two, the ALJ
determined that Mr. Williams had the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus; seizure disorder; residual of
February 2016 comminuted fracture of left arm/shoulder;
depression; anxiety; and borderline intellectual functioning.
(TR. 16). 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. 16).
four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Williams had no past
relevant work, but retained the residual functional capacity
[P]erform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except
he can is limited to no more than frequent reaching with the
left upper extremity and no overhead reaching with the left
upper extremity. He must avoid climbing ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds and have no more than occasional exposure to
hazards. Further, he is limited to simple, routine,
repetitive tasks with no strict production requirements.
(TR. 19, 24). Based on the finding that Mr. Williams had no
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. 50-51).
Given the limitations, the VE identified three jobs from the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles. (TR. 51). The ALJ adopted
the testimony of the VE and concluded that Mr. Williams was
not disabled based on his ability to perform the identified
jobs. (TR. 25).
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).
Williams alleges the ALJ erred: (1) in considering evidence
from two licensed professional counselors and (2) at step
five. (ECF No. 14:4-10).
ERROR IN THE CONSIDERATION OF “OTHER SOURCE”
alleges error in the evaluation of opinions from two licensed
professional counselors-Rebecca Kroeker and Jeannette Redman.
(ECF No. 14:4-8). According to Mr. Williams, the ALJ ignored
significantly probative evidence offered by Ms. Kroeker and
Ms. Redman without explanation. (ECF No. 14:4-8). The Court
disagrees as to Ms. Kroeker's opinion, but agrees that
the ALJ erred in evaluating evidence from Ms. Redman.
ALJ's Duty to Consider Evidence from “Other
Circuit law and Social Security Ruling 06-3p state that the
ALJ must consider evidence from “other sources, ”
who do not qualify as “acceptable medical
sources.” Blea v. Barnhart, 466 F.3d 903,
914-15 (10th Cir. 2006); Titles II and XVI: Considering
Opinions and Other Evidence from Sources Who are not
“Acceptable Medical Sources” in Disability
Claims; Considering Decisions on Disability by Other
Governmental and Nongovernmental Agencies, 2006 WL 2329939,
at *4, *6 (SSR 06-3p). “Medical sources who are ‘not
acceptable medical sources,' [include] …
rehabilitation counselors … [and] professional
… counselors.” SSR 06-03-p, at *2, *4.
from these “non-medical sources” who have seen
the claimant in an official capacity should be evaluated
using the following factors: (1) the length and frequency of
the treatment; (2) consistency of the opinion with other
evidence; (3) the degree to which the source presents
relevant evidence in support; (4) how well the source
explains the opinion; (5) the level of the source's
expertise; and (6) any other relevant factors. Id.
at *5. In evaluating “other source” evidence, not
every factor will apply in every case. Id. However,
the ALJ should explain the weight given to the “other
source, ” ensuring that the decision allows a reviewing
party to follow the adjudicator's reasoning. Id.
“Other Source” Evidence
record contains evidence from two non-medical “other
sources.” On June 2, 2016, Ms. Kroeker wrote a letter
which stated that Plaintiff was being seen for outpatient
counseling at her agency. (TR. 395). In the letter, Ms.
Kroeker stated that Plaintiff presented with anxiety,
depression, and distorted thought processes and that he had
cognitive impairments including learning problems and low IQ.
record also contains evidence from the Oklahoma Department of
Rehabilitation Services (ODRS) where Mr. Williams was seen
for vocational rehabilitation services. (TR. 404-469). As
part of his treatment at ODRS, on October 28, 2016, Ms.
Redman completed a report comprised of four parts: report
which set forth: (1) “Determination, ” (2)
“Disabilities, ” (3) “Impediment[s] to
Employment, ” and (4) “Documentation.” (TR.
initial “Determination” Section, Mr. Williams was
assessed into “Priority Group 1” with the
following “Functional Limitations:”
• Communication-severe restriction;
• Interpersonal skills-severe ...