United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Katherine Lee requests judicial review of a denial
of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the
Commissioner's decision be REVERSED and the case REMANDED
to the ALJ for further proceedings.
Security Law and Standard of Review
under the Social Security Act is defined as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A
claimant is disabled under the Social Security Act
“only if h[er] physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that [s]he is not only
unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering
h[er] age, education, and work experience, engage in any
other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy[.]” Id. § 423 (d)(2)(A).
Social security regulations implement a five-step sequential
process to evaluate a disability claim. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
405(g) limits the scope of judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to two inquiries: whether the
decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether
correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997).
Substantial evidence is “‘more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971), quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938); see also Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). The Court
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its discretion for
the Commissioner's. See Casias v. Secretary of Health
& Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir.
1991). But the Court must review the record as a whole, and
“[t]he substantiality of evidence must take into
account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its
weight.” Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340
U.S. 474, 488 (1951); see also Casias, 933 F.2d at
claimant was born June 14, 1961, and was fifty-two years old
at the time of the hearing (Tr. 33). She has up to two years
of college education, and has worked as a mental retardation
aide, groundskeeper, and purchasing order clerk (Tr. 20,
184). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to work
since August 1, 2010 due to back problems (Tr. 184).
11, 2012, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434. Her application was denied. ALJ Bernard
Porter held an administrative hearing and determined the
claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated July 16,
2014 (Tr. 17-31). The Appeals Council denied review, so ALJ
Porter's opinion represents the Commissioner's final
decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant retained the ability to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), except
that she was limited to occasionally using foot controls,
overhead reaching, kneeling, and climbing ramps and stairs;
never climbing ladders or scaffolds, or crawling; and
frequently balancing, stooping, and crouching. Additionally,
he found the claimant required a sit-stand option that
allowed her to change position every thirty minutes, that she
could never work around unprotected heights or moving
mechanical parts, she could perform simple tasks and simple
work-related decisions, and she could have no contact with
the public and only occasional interaction with co-workers
and supervisors (Tr. 16). The ALJ concluded that although the
claimant could not return to her past relevant work, she was
nevertheless not disabled because there was work she could
perform, e. g., small products assembler,
electronics worker, and mail room clerk (Tr. 21).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) improperly
evaluating her credibility, (ii) failing to properly assess
her RFC, and (iii) failing to fully develop the record. The
undersigned Magistrate Judge agrees with the claimant's
first contention, and the decision of the Commissioner should
Porter determined that the claimant had the severe
impairments of lumbar disc disease, cervical disc disease,
heart palpitations, major depression, generalized anxiety
disorder, mild cognitive disorder, and post-traumatic stress
disorder (Tr. 14). The claimant testified at the
administrative hearing that she could not work because of her
lower back, which she first hurt in November 2007 (Tr.
39-40). She had an epidural steroid injection but it provided
no relief, and she stated that she keeps getting worse (Tr.
40-41). She testified that she takes over-the-counter pain
medications daily (Tr. 43). She stated that sitting for over
half an hour can make it difficult for her to stand up, and
that there is nothing she can do to relieve the pain (Tr.
44). She testified that doctors had not recommended any sort
of movement for her pain relief (Tr. 45). As to her mental
impairments, she stated that she has high anxiety accompanied
by a rapid heart rate, and that she ...