United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
SEQUOYAH D. QUINTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Sequoyah D. Quinton 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 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 November 7, 1969, and was forty-four
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 41).
He has a high school education, some college, and has worked
as a private investigator, police officer, dispatcher, and
internal security manager (Tr. 42, 55). The claimant alleges
that he has been unable to work since October 29, 2007, due
to high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, Fuch's
dystrophy, and problems with his back, shoulder, neck, and
knee (Tr. 141, 171).
October 13, 2011, 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
insurance payments under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 (Tr. 136-48). The
claimant's applications were denied. ALJ Doug Gabbard, II
conducted an administrative hearing, and in a decision dated
January 24, 2014, found that the claimant was not disabled
prior to December 27, 2012, but became disabled on that date,
and continued to be disabled through the date of his decision
(Tr. 17-29). 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, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at steps four five of the sequential
evaluation. For the period prior to December 27, 2012, the
ALJ found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b) (Tr.
22-26). Beginning December 27, 2012, the ALJ found that the
claimant had the RFC to perform light work with the following
limitations: (i) occasional contact with the pubic and
understanding, remembering, and completing detailed tasks;
(ii) semi-skilled work defined as, work which requires some
detail skills, but does not require doing more complex work
duties; (iii) interpersonal contact with coworkers and
supervisors on a superficial work basis; (iv) ability to
alternately sit and stand every fifteen minutes throughout
the workday without leaving the workstation; (v) sitting
and/or standing no more than four hours total per day, with
the ability to lie down the other four hours; and (vi)
frequent unscheduled work breaks and work absences (Tr. 26).
The ALJ concluded that the claimant was not disabled before
December 27, 2012, because he could return to his past
relevant work as a security supervisor (Tr. 27). The ALJ then
found the claimant disabled as of December 27, 2012, because
there were no jobs in the national economy that he could
perform (Tr. 28-29).
claimant appeals the ALJ's decision as it relates to his
impairments and resulting limitations prior to December 27,
2012. The claimant contends that the ALJ's decision for
the period prior to December 27, 2012 is against the
substantial weight of the evidence, and not based on all of
the medical evidence in the record. In support of his first
contention, the claimant asserts that Dr. Schatzman's
consultative exam supports a more limited RFC for the period
prior to December 27, 2012. The Court finds the ALJ did err
in his analysis of Dr. Schatzman's opinion, and the
decision of the Commissioner must therefore be reversed and
the case remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings.
found that the claimant's failed back syndrome,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and
hypertension were severe impairments, and that his right knee
injury, Fuch's dystrophy, right shoulder injury, and
depression were non-severe (Tr. 20-21). The relevant medical
record reveals that on October 29, 2007, the claimant was
struck by a vehicle as it was backing up, and thereafter
underwent three back surgeries (Tr. 284-304). On March 31,
2008, Dr. Donnie Hawkins removed hardware at ¶ 5 and S1
which were placed during a previous back surgery in 2002,
performed decompressive laminectomies at ¶ 4-5 and L5-S1
due to spinal stenosis, performed a discectomy at ¶ 4-5
due to a herniated disc, and performed a fusion with
instrumentation at ¶ 4-5 due to instability (Tr.
464-85). On January 26, 2009, Dr. Hawkins removed the
hardware placed in March 2008, performed decompressive
laminectomies with foraminotomies at ¶ 4-5 and L5-S1 due
to recurrent stenosis, excised pseudoarthritis at ¶ 4-5,
and re-fused L4-5 due to non-union (Tr. 408-25). On March 24,
2010, Dr. Hawkins removed the ...