United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
TAMRA L. BLAND, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Tamra L. Bland requests judicial review pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration denying her application
for benefits under the Social Security Act. She appeals the
decision of the Commissioner and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision of the Commissioner is hereby 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[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 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.
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is
limited to two inquiries: whether the decision was supported
by substantial evidence, and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. See Hawkins v. Chater, 113
F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997) [citation omitted]. The term
“substantial evidence” requires
“‘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). However, the Court may not reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. See
Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 933
F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, 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 800-01.
claimant was born on August 21, 1971, and was forty-two years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 29, 144).
She completed twelfth grade, and has worked as a meat
trimmer, office helper, and data entry clerk (Tr. 22, 169).
The claimant alleges she has been unable to work since
September 27, 2012, due to low back pain that radiates to her
tailbone and legs, and spondylosis (Tr. 168).
October 3, 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 James Bentley held an administrative hearing and
determined the claimant was not disabled in a written
decision dated June 13, 2014 (Tr. 11-23). The Appeals Council
denied review, so the ALJ's written decision represents
the final decision of the Commissioner 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 retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform a range of sedentary work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a), except that she
required a sit/stand option defined as a temporary change of
position from sitting to standing and vice versa with no more
than one change of position every half hour and without
leaving the workstation. Additionally, he found the claimant
could only occasionally use her upper extremities, stoop,
crouch, and crawl (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, i. e., surveillance system monitor,
call out operator, and election clerk (Tr. 23).
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ
failed to properly weigh her subjective complaints. The Court
agrees, and the decision of the ALJ should be reversed and
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
lumbar radiculitis/radiculopathy, low back pain, lumbosacral
spondylosis without myelopathy, cervical radiculitis, carpal
tunnel syndrome, medial nerve entrapment, and obesity (Tr.
13). A July 6, 2012 x-ray of the lumbar spine revealed a pars
defect at ¶ 5 with mild listhesis (Tr. 279). On July 9,
2012, the claimant was limited to less than ten pounds and to
moderate activity as tolerated, based on her back pain with
radiculopathy, by Dr. Brad Stewart (Tr. 287). Beginning in
August 2012, the claimant underwent a number of epidural
steroid injections (Tr. 294, 301). In January 2013, the
claimant was noted to have a slowed gait and decreased range
of motion and pain with range of motion in the back, and was
assessed with degenerative spondylolisthesis (Tr. 323). She
continued to complain of pain and received treatment at the
Paragon Pain & Rehabilitation ...