United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
LORESA S. FOSTER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Loresa Foster 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is herby REVERSED and
the case 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 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.
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 April 13, 1958, and was fifty-four years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 80). She
has a high school education and certified nursing and
medication assistant training, and has worked as a certified
nursing aide, and a certified medication aide (Tr. 93-94,
209). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to work
since November 10, 2010, due to systemic lupus, scleroderma,
Raynaud's syndrome, Sjogren's syndrome, and
depression (Tr. 153, 208).
March 7, 2011, the claimant filed an application for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Her application
was denied. ALJ Richard J. Kallsnick conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated October 12, 2012 (Tr.
56-63). 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. §§
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) perform the full
range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b) (Tr. 59). The ALJ concluded that the claimant was
not disabled because she could return to her past relevant
work as a certified medication aide and certified nurse's
aide, and because there was other work that she could perform
in the national economy, e. g., arcade attendant,
video clerk, and clerical mailer (Tr. 61-62).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to: (i)
consider all the evidence in finding the claimant had no
episodes of decompensation; (ii) consider and account for all
of her mental impairments; (iii) properly determine the
mental demands of her past relevant work; (iv) apply the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the “Grids”) to
find her disabled; and (v) perform a proper credibility
determination. The Court finds the claimant's last
contention persuasive, and the decision of the Commissioner
must therefore be reversed and the case remanded to the ALJ
for further proceedings.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
limited scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, and
Raynaud's syndrome, but that her alleged depression and
anxiety were non-severe (Tr. 58-59). The medical record as to
the claimant's mental impairments reveals that the
claimant was admitted to St. John Hospital due to depression
on June 30, 2004, and that she was receiving ongoing
counseling for major depressive disorder as of July 12, 2004,
but there are no specific treatment notes in the record
related to this hospitalization (Tr. 250, 255, 260, 266, ...