United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Amy Suzanne Pearson 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 hereby 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 16, 1976, and was thirty-seven years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 231). She
has a high school education, some college, and vocational
training in nail technology, and has no past work (Tr. 108,
122-23). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to
work since June 2, 2009, due to bipolar disorder (Tr. 231,
January 17, 2013, the claimant filed an application for
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her
application was denied. ALJ James Bentley conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated March 17, 2014 (Tr.
95-110). 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 step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) perform a limited range of light
work, i. e., she could lift and/or carry twenty
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand and/or
walk for six hours total during an eight-hour workday; sit
for six hours total during an eight-hour workday; perform
simple tasks with routine supervision; could have occasional
contact with co-workers and supervisors; and could have no
work related contact with the public (Tr. 102). Since the
claimant could perform light work, the ALJ found she could
also perform sedentary work (Tr. 102). The ALJ concluded that
the claimant was not disabled because there was work that she
could perform in the national economy, e. g., small
products assembler, inspector packer, and motel inspector
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) analyze her substance abuse, (ii) evaluate the opinion of
consultative examiner Dr. Kathleen Ward, (iii) consider the
side effects of her medication, and (iv) analyze her various
Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) scores.
The Court finds the claimant's first and second
contentions 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
generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder,
paranoid type schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,
methamphetamine abuse in remission by report, cannabis abuse,
hepatitis C, obesity, and subjective complaints of idiopathic
peripheral autonomic neuropathy and low back pain (Tr.
97-100). The medical record as to the claimant's mental
impairments reveals that she was admitted to the Carl Albert
Community Mental Health Center (“CACMHC”) under
emergency detention on July 16, 2011, after police discovered
her walking in the middle of the road without shoes on,
yelling for water, and throwing her mail on the ground (Tr.
394-410). Nurse practitioner Cindy Baugh conducted a
psychiatric assessment at admission, and noted the claimant
was alert but disoriented, angry, hostile, unkempt,
disheveled, and combative towards police (Tr. 399). She did
not answer any questions and her judgment was grossly
impaired (Tr. 399). The claimant admitted to using
methamphetamine on the day of admission, and reported to Dr.
Theresa Farrow that her drug use had a lot to do with why she
was admitted for inpatient treatment (Tr. 404). After the
claimant was stabilized with medication, Dr. Farrow
discharged her on July 26, 2011, with diagnoses of bipolar
disorder, mixed, severe, with psychotic feature; panic
disorder with agoraphobia; cannabis abuse; and a GAF score of