United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
MICHAEL D. NANNEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Michael D. Nanney 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 that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby REVERSED and
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 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
claimant was born April 26, 1975, and was thirty-eight years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 34, 210).
He completed ninth grade, and has worked as a laborer and
heavy equipment operator (Tr. 27, 224). The claimant alleges
inability to work since January 2, 2012, due to a herniated
disc in lower back, chronic pain, and inability to lift more
than twenty pounds (Tr. 223).
September 24, 2010, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and for supplemental benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-85. Both applications were denied. ALJ
James Bentley conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated April 4, 2014 (Tr. 16-29). 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. §§ 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 sedentary work, as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), finding that
he could lift/carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten
pounds frequently, stand/walk at least two hours in an
eight-hour workday, sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday, but that he must have a sit/stand option defined as
a temporary change in position from sitting to standing and
vice versa with no more than one change in position every
half hour and without leaving the workstation. Additionally,
the ALJ found that the claimant could only occasionally
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Finally, the ALJ determined
that the claimant was limited because he was illiterate (Tr.
21-22). 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., assembler, cutter and paster, and lens inserter (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred: (i) by failing to
properly consider the medical evidence, specifically with
regard to weighing a consultative examiner's opinion and
treatment records; and (ii) by failing to properly evaluate
his subjective symptoms. Because the ALJ does appear to have
ignored probative evidence regarding the claimant's
impairments, the decision of the Commissioner must be
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
degenerative joint disease with sciatica and multilevel
degenerative disc disease, as well as the nonsevere
impairments of GERD, rhinitis, and depression (Tr. 18-19).
The relevant medical evidence demonstrates that the claimant
was treated for two scorpion bites on his thigh after
reporting that he had not felt the bites because his thigh
was numb (Tr. 287). He was assessed with degenerative joint
disease with sciatica (Tr. 287). A November 20, 2012 MRI of
the spine revealed multilevel degenerative disc disease with
mild spondylotic disc bulges and facet arthropathy,
superimposed minimal central disc herniation at ¶ 3-L4,
asymmetric left foraminal disc bulge at ¶ 12-L1
resulting in left foraminal stenosis, multilevel Schmorls
nodes, small S1 hemangioma versus focal fat, and mild grade
compression fracture of T12 (Tr. 300). Records dated January
2, 2014 from the claimant's treating facility indicate
that his gait was steady but that he had limited/painful
range of motion with flexion/extension, that he had