United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
JOHNNY C. COULTER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Johnny C. Coulter 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 decision of the Commissioner is hereby REVERSED
and the case is REMANDED 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 August 16, 1964, and was forty-nine years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 39, 172).
He completed the tenth grade, and has worked as a truck
driver, welder, bricklayer helper, and concrete paving helper
(Tr. 31, 187). The claimant alleges he has been unable to
work since November 2, 2010, due to seizures (Tr. 186).
October 6, 2011, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. His application was denied.
ALJ James Bentley conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated February 28, 2014 (Tr. 21-33). The Appeals
Council denied review, so the ALJ's opinion represents
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 medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1567(c), except that he was precluded from work at
unprotected heights, around dangerous moving machinery, and
moderate exposure to extreme temperatures, high humidity,
loud noises, frequent vibrations, and concentrated fumes.
Additionally, the ALJ limited the claimant to simple tasks
with routine supervision (Tr. 26). The ALJ concluded that
although the claimant could not return to his past relevant
work, he was nevertheless not disabled because there was work
he could perform, i. e., dry cleaner helper,
automatic machine attendant, and press machine operator (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
evaluate the medical evidence with regard to the
claimant's mental impairment, and the Court agrees.
Accordingly, the decision of the Commissioner is therefore
two, the ALJ determined that the claimant had the severe
impairments of seizure disorder, migraine headaches,
amphetamine and cannabis abuse (in sustained remission per
testimony), and illiteracy, as well as the nonsevere
impairments of left ankle pain, right elbow pain, and neck
and back pain (Tr. 23-24). At step three, the ALJ determined
that the claimant's depression was a nonsevere
impairment, finding that the claimant had mild restriction of
activities of daily living, but moderate difficulties in
social functioning and maintaining concentration,
persistence, and pace, but no episodes of decompensation (Tr.
25). The medical evidence relevant to this appeal reflects
that the claimant was sent for a consultative mental
examination, but that physician has since been discredited
and his opinion was not part of the ALJ's decision. As
such, the ALJ gave no weight to this decision, and