United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
DARRELL E. MURRAY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Darrell E. Murray 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision 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 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 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 on February 8, 1962, and was fifty-two
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr.
150). He has at least an eighth grade education,
has no past relevant work (Tr. 59). The claimant alleges that
he has been unable to work since an amended onset date of
March 15, 2012, due to back issues, arthritis, gout, problems
with his thyroid, mental illness, and a nervous disorder (Tr.
claimant applied for supplemental security income benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-85, on April 12, 2012. The claimant's
application was denied. ALJ Luke Liter conducted an
administrative hearing and found that the claimant was not
disabled in a written decision dated June 27, 2014 (Tr.
15-28). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's
decision represents 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 had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited range of
light work, i. e., he could lift ten pounds
frequently and twenty pounds occasionally, and sit/stand/walk
for six hours in an eight-hour workday with occasional
balancing, kneeling, stooping, crouching, and crawling (Tr.
20). The ALJ further found the claimant was unable to
tolerate exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights or
dangerous moving machinery parts (Tr. 20). The ALJ limited
the claimant to simple and some complex tasks, defined as
semi-skilled work with a specific vocational preparation of
three to four (Tr. 20). The ALJ further limited the claimant
to no contact with the public, and superficial contact,
defined as brief and cursory, with co-workers and supervisors
(Tr. 20). The ALJ concluded that the claimant was not
disabled because there were jobs in the regional and national
economies that he could perform, i. e., label coder,
merchandise marker, and housekeeping/cleaner (Tr. 27-28).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred: (i) by failing to
properly assess his RFC and finding that there was work he
could perform, (ii) by improperly analyzing the medical and
nonmedical source evidence, and (iii) by improperly assessing
his credibility. The Court finds that the ALJ did err in
determining the claimant's RFC, and the decision of the
Commissioner must therefore be reversed.
found that the claimant's major depressive disorder,
anxiety disorder, obesity, mild lumbar spine spurring, and
mild acromioclavicular joint arthropathy were severe
impairments, and that his history of a single seizure was
non-severe (Tr. 17). The relevant medical record reveals the
claimant presented to Dr. Larry Sumner on May 19, 2010, for,
inter alia, shoulder and neck pain (Tr. 280). Dr.
Sumner noted the claimant's right shoulder was tender to
abduction with decreased range of motion and crepitus, and
that he had decreased range of motion in his neck (Tr. 280).
Dr. Sumner instructed the claimant to not use his right arm
for a few weeks (Tr. 280). An x-ray of the claimant's
lumbar spine taken July 25, 2012, was unremarkable except for
mild endplate spurring (Tr. 263). An x-ray of the
claimant's right shoulder taken the same day revealed
mild acromioclavicular joint arthropathy (Tr. 263). The
claimant next visited Dr. Sumner on August 14, 2012, for a
follow-up appointment after he was treated at the Tahlequah
City Hospital Emergency Department four days earlier for heat
exhaustion and a seizure (Tr. 266-80). A CT scan of the
claimant's brain performed on August 10, 2012, was normal
(Tr. 274). Dr. Sumner diagnosed the claimant with seizure
disorder, and recommended he not drive (Tr. 279). The
claimant next sought treatment from Dr. Sumner on November
11, 2013, after he fell from a ladder (Tr. 345). The claimant
reported back pain and weakness, but no arthritis, joint
pain, joint swelling, muscle cramps, or stiffness (Tr. 345).
Dr. Sumner diagnosed the claimant with a lumbar sprain and
seizure disorder, and recommended the claimant refrain from
heavy lifting (Tr. 346). At a follow-up appointment on