United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Junior DeWayne Ransom requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision should 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 his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his 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 March 15, 1972, and was forty-three years
old at the time of the most recent administrative hearing
(Tr. 275). He completed the twelfth grade, received job
training in security in 1992, and has worked as a fast food
cook, hospital housekeeper, and sewing machine factory worker
(Tr. 17, 177). The claimant alleges that he has been unable
to work since May 15, 2009, due to hearing problems and
complications arising from severe burns on his legs and feet
received during his childhood (Tr. 173).
16, 2009, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. His applications were denied.
ALJ Peter M. Keltch conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated January 24, 2012. (Tr. 8-19). The Appeals
Council denied review, but this Court reversed and remanded
in Case No. CIV-13-103-FHS-SPS (Tr. 306-324). On remand the
Appeals Council consolidated this case with subsequent
applications by the claimant, and ALJ Larry D. Shepherd held
a second administrative hearing and again determined that the
claimant as not disabled in a written opinion dated November
4, 2015 (Tr. 247-257). The Appeals Council again denied,
review, so ALJ Shepherd's written opinion is the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this
appeal. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a range of light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.1967(b), i. e., he could lift/carry ten pounds
occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently, and sit six
hours in an eight-hour workday and stand/walk for at least
two hours in an eight-hour workday. The ALJ imposed the
additional limitations of only occasionally climbing,
balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and using
foot controls. Further, the ALJ stated that the claimant was
to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, such as
unprotected heights and heavy machinery, but that he could
perform work where oral communication is not an essential job
function (Tr. 250). The ALJ concluded that although the
claimant could not return to his past relevant work, he was
nevertheless not disabled because there was work that he
could perform, e. g., patcher, final assembler of
optical goods, and stuffer (Tr. 255-256).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred: (i) by failing to
adequately evaluate his subjective complaints, and (ii)
because the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence,
specifically as it related to his legs. The undersigned
Magistrate Judge agrees with the claimant's first
contention for the following reasons.
Shepherd determined that the claimant had the severe
impairments of sensorineural hearing loss and status post
burn injuries (Tr. 250). The relevant medical evidence
reveals that the claimant went to the Central Oklahoma Family
Medical Center (COFMC) for treatment of pain in his left
knee, left foot, and bilateral ankles. He was advised to
obtain corrective shoes and see a podiatrist (Tr. 218). The
claimant returned to COFMC in June and August of 2009,
reporting that he continued to have pain in his legs and that
he could no longer stand for any period of time without pain
and discomfort (Tr. 219-220). As part of his treatment plan,
the claimant was directed to begin elevating his legs
throughout the day, and to obtain inserts for his shoes to
treat the pes planus (Tr. 223). At his follow-up appointment
in August, the claimant had not obtained inserts, but
reported some relief of his symptoms with elevating his legs
at home (Tr. 225). Musculoskeletal exams revealed full knee
extension, reduced knee flexion, reduced ankle extension, ...