United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
BERNARD M. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Cathy Frost, seeks judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's (SSA) denial of her application for
disability insurance benefits (DIB). The Commissioner has
filed the Administrative Record (AR) [Doc. No. 11], and both
parties have briefed their positions. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and
remands for further proceedings.
19, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an
unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled and,
therefore, not entitled to DIB. AR 40-46. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at
1-8. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision constitutes the
Commissioner's final decision. See Krauser v.
Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff
timely commenced this action for judicial review.
The ALJ's Decision
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required
by agency regulations. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d
1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining process); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Following this process,
the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity during the period from her
alleged onset date of June 30, 2017, through her date last
insured, which was also June 30, 2017. AR 42.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff suffers from the severe
impairments of COPD and obesity. Id. At step three,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or
medically equal any of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Id. at 42-43.
next determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC), concluding that Plaintiff could perform medium work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) with the additional
restrictions that Plaintiff occasionally can climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; frequently balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, or crawl; and must avoid fumes, odors, dusts, gases,
and poor ventilation. Id. at 43.
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was able to perform her
past relevant work as a home health aide and hardware sales
clerk. Id. at 44. The ALJ then proceeded to make
alternative findings at step five and, relying on the
testimony of a vocational expert (VE), found Plaintiff can
perform work existing in significant numbers in the national
economy. Id. at 45. Specifically, the ALJ found
Plaintiff can perform the requirements of representative jobs
such as woman's apparel salesperson, and general
merchandise sales. Id. Therefore, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff is not disabled for purposes of the Social
Security Act. Id. at 46.
Claims Presented for Judicial Review
brings two allegations of error: (1) the ALJ failed to
consider certain medical evidence; and (2) the ALJ failed to
properly consider Plaintiff's obesity. Pl.'s Br.
[Doc. No. 15] at 3-8, 8-11. For the reasons set forth below,
the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and
remands for further proceedings.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009); see
also Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir.
2008) (holding that the court only reviews an ALJ's
decision “to determine whether the factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether
the correct legal standards were applied” and in that
review, “we neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute
our judgment for that of the agency” (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted)). Under such review,
“common sense, not technical perfection, is [the
Court's] guide.” Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue,
695 F.3d 1156, 1167 (10th Cir. 2012).