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Andrews v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

March 21, 2017

SHANA LYNETTE ANDREWS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEVEN P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The claimant Shana Lynette Andrews 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 that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in determining she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby REVERSED and REMANDED to the ALJ for further proceedings.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability 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.[2]

         Section 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 the 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 800-01.

         Claimant's Background

         The claimant was born March 31, 1986, and was twenty-eight years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 36). She completed eighth grade, and has no past relevant work (Tr. 22, 246). The claimant alleges inability to work since April 26, 2012, due to bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, and anxiety (Tr. 245).

         Procedural History

         On April 26, 2012, the claimant applied for supplemental benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. The application was denied. ALJ B.D. Crutchfield conducted an administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated July 25, 2014 (Tr. 12-23). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's written opinion is the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. She found that the claimant had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the nonexertional limitations of being limited to simple, routine tasks because the claimant had no past relevant work, and only occasional contact with the public (Tr. 17). The ALJ concluded that although the claimant had no past relevant work to return to, she was nevertheless not disabled because she could perform the representative occupations of sorting jobs and hand packer (Tr. 23).

         Review

         The claimant contends that the ALJ erred: (i) by failing to properly weigh the findings of consultative examiner Dr. Kenny A. Paris, (ii) by failing to include all her limitations in the RFC assessment, and (iii) by failing to properly evaluate her subjective symptoms. Because the ALJ does appear to have ignored probative evidence regarding the claimant's impairments, the decision of the Commissioner must be reversed.

         The ALJ determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of depression and anxiety, as well as the nonsevere impairment of inflammatory pelvic disease (Tr. 147). The relevant medical evidence demonstrates that the claimant was largely treated on a regular basis at a clinic in Westville, Oklahoma, including treatment at various times for ...


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