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Patricia A. Bouter v. William H. Baughman

October 19, 2011

PATRICIA A. BOUTER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM H. BAUGHMAN, JR. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William H. Baughman, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE

ORDER

Introduction

This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the applications of the plaintiff, Patricia A. Bouter, for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The parties have consented to magistrate judge's jurisdiction.

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Bouter had severe impairments consisting of inflammatory arthritis and adjustment disorder with depressed mood.*fn1 The ALJ made the following finding regarding Bouter's residual functional capacity:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, sit 8 hours in an eight-hour day and stand and walk 6 of 8 hours with the ability to alternate her position between sitting and standing. The claimant retains the capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) involving simple low stress repetitive job tasks not involving any climbing or frequent reaching and handling.*fn2 Given that residual functional capacity, the ALJ found Bouter incapable of performing her past relevant work as a certified nursing assistant, hauler/excavator, and farm worker.*fn3

Based on an answer to a hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert at the hearing setting forth the residual functional capacity finding quoted above, the ALJ determined that a significant number of jobs existed locally and nationally that Bouter could perform.*fn4 The ALJ, therefore, found Bouter not under a disability.*fn5

Bouter asks for reversal of the Commissioner's decision on the ground that it does not have the support of substantial evidence in the administrative record. Specifically, Bouter argues that the residual functional capacity finding lacks the support of substantial evidence because the ALJ did not properly weigh the opinion of her treating rheumatologist or articulate as to that opinion.

I conclude that the ALJ did not properly weigh and articulate with respect to the opinion of Bouter's treating rheumatologist, as required by applicable regulations and case law. The case, therefore, must be remanded for reconsoderation of the residual functional capacity finding.

Analysis

A. Introduction

This case turns on the ALJ's treatment of the evaluation of David Mandel, M.D., Bouter's treating rheumatologist. Dr. Mandel opined that Bouter's rheumatoid arthritis, which the ALJ found a severe impairment,*fn6 seriously limited her ability to grasp, manipulate, and reach with both hands.*fn7

The Commissioner does not dispute that Dr. Mandel is a treating source. The issue is whether the ALJ treated Dr. Mandel's opinion ...


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