United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY E. WEST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Charlotte Mendez (the “Claimant”) requests
judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying Claimant's
application for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act. Claimant appeals the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) and asserts that the Commissioner
erred because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Claimant
was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, it is the
finding of this Court that the Commissioner's decision
should be and is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED to
Defendant 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. . .” 42 U.S.C. §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.
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is
limited to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997)(citation
omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has
been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to
require “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)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias
v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799,
800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the
record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the
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 800-01.
was 52 years old at the time of the ALJ's latest
decision. Claimant completed her high school education and
one year of college. Claimant has worked in the past as a
collections clerk, corrections officer, home attendant,
appointment clerk, poultry hanger, bandsaw operator, and
machine packager. Claimant alleges an inability to work
beginning November 1, 2009 due to limitations resulting from
degenerative disc disease, chronic back pain, arthritis,
migraines, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, diabetes,
depression, and anxiety.
October 11, 2011, Claimant protectively filed for disability
insurance benefits under Title II (42 U.S.C. § 401,
et seq.) of the Social Security Act. On September
13, 2011, Claimant filed an application for supplemental
security income pursuant to Title XVI (42 U.S.C. § 1381,
et seq.) of the Social Security Act. Claimant's
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
On February 7, 2013, an administrative hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Doug
Gabbard, II in McAlester, Oklahoma. By decision dated May 10,
2013, the ALJ denied Claimant's requests for benefits.
The Appeals Council reversed and remanded the decision on
June 11, 2014.
remand, the ALJ conducted a second administrative hearing on
November 20, 2014 in McAlester, Oklahoma. He issued a second
unfavorable decision on January 8, 2015. The Appeals Council
denied review on March 15, 2016. As a result, the decision of
the ALJ represents the Commissioner's final decision for
purposes of further appeal. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He determined that while Claimant suffered from severe
impairments, she did not meet a listing and retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work with limitations.
Alleged for Review Claimant asserts the ALJ
committed error in rejecting the opinion of her treatment
provider that Claimant must use a cane to ambulate.