United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Patrice Wilson 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 March 1, 1972, and was forty-one years old
at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 40). She has a
high school education, some college, and has worked as a bill
collector, claims clerk, receptionist, and medical record
clerk (Tr. 66, 188). The claimant alleges that she has been
unable to work since February 23, 2009, due to major
depression, bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism, hypersensitive
cardiovascular disease, brittle diabetes, a sleep disorder,
anxiety, and other (unspecified) psychiatric disorders (Tr.
February 29, 2012, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her applications were denied.
ALJ Bernard Porter conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated May 2, 2014 (Tr. 15-27). 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 retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b), except
that she was limited to frequent handling, fingering, and
feeling; occasional use of hand controls, climbing ramps and
stairs, and interaction with supervisors and co-workers; and
could never climb ladders or scaffolds, crawl, work at
unprotected heights or around moving mechanical parts, be
exposed to temperature extremes, or interact with the public
(Tr. 20). The ALJ further found the claimant required a
sit/stand option that allowed a change of position at least
every thirty minutes, and was limited to simple tasks and
simple work related decisions (Tr. 20). Due to episodic
symptomology, the ALJ also found the claimant may miss one
day per month (Tr. 20). The ALJ concluded that although the
claimant could not return to her past relevant work, she was
nevertheless not disabled because there was work that she
could perform in the regional and national economies, e.
g., small products assembler, electrical assembler, and
conveyor line bakery worker (Tr. 25-27).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) account for her mental impairments, and (ii) assess her
credibility. The Court finds these contentions persuasive,
and the decision of the Commissioner must therefore be
reversed and the case remanded to the ALJ for further
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
bipolar disorder, history of polysubstance abuse, diabetes
mellitus, obesity, hypertension, sleep apnea, anxiety
disorder, history of carpal tunnel with corrective surgery,
personality disorder, and thyroid disorder (Tr. 18). The
medical record reveals the claimant was admitted to Laureate
Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital for psychiatric stabilization
on May 1, 2008, after reporting increased irritability, a
depressed mood, lethargy, fatigue, and a general decrease in
her level of functioning (Tr. 260-69). She was discharged on
May 5, 2008, and was diagnosed with major depressive
disorder, recurrent, severe; cannabis abuse; amphetamine
abuse; hypertension; hypothyroidism; and diabetes (Tr. 269).
Dr. Michael Dubriwny noted he was unclear whether the
claimant's lethargy was related to her mood disorder or
substance abuse, but that her financial distress contributed
to her symptoms (Tr. 269). Dr. R.T. Bowden managed the
claimant's psychotropic medications from August 2011
through May 2012, when he discharged her from his care due to
noncompliance (Tr. 854-60, 902). The claimant also
participated in counseling with Gayle McDonald from October