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Davis v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 16, 2019

SEAN DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHON T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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 disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income 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).

         The 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.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Initially and on reconsideration, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. Following an administrative hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 12-25). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (TR. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The ALJ 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 engaged in substantial gainful activity during certain periods, but had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during a continuous 12-month period. The ALJ considered only the periods during which Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity. (TR. 15). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: amputated great toe on the right foot, diabetes mellitus, arthropathies, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, obesity, depression, and anxiety. (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. 16).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with specified additional mental abilities and limitations, but finding “no other physical or mental limitations or restrictions.” (TR. 18). Applying SSA policy, the ALJ made no finding regarding Plaintiff's past relevant work. (TR. 23).

         The ALJ then proceeded to make findings at step five. The ALJ consulted with a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Given the limitations presented by the ALJ, the VE identified seven sedentary, unskilled jobs from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). (TR. 23-24). Relying upon the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled based on his ability to perform the identified jobs. (TR. 24).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This 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 “sufficient evidence” to support the agency's factual determinations. Biestek v. Berryhill, -- U.S. --, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (internal citation, alteration, and quotation marks omitted). “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.” Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         While 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).

         IV. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ (1) improperly considered the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, and (2) failed to properly consider ...


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