United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
WILMA S. WESLEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Wilma S. Wesley 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 December 2, 1967, and was forty-five years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 47). She
has a high school education, and has worked as a cashier,
short order cook, housekeeper, and poultry eviscerator (Tr.
55-56, 222). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to
work since August 18, 2010, due to fibromyalgia, lupus,
rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and
degenerative disc disease in her lower back (Tr. 221).
October 19, 2011, the claimant applied for supplemental
security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 205-10).
Her application was denied. ALJ Doug Gabbard, II conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated June 27, 2014 (Tr.
16-31). 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
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a),
i. e., she could lift and/or carry ten pounds
occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; stand
and/or walk about two hours total during an eight-hour
workday; sit for about six hours total during an eight- hour
workday; and occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch and crawl (Tr. 21). The ALJ also found the claimant
must be allowed to alternately sit and stand every fifteen
minutes throughout the workday in order to change positions,
but without leaving the workstation (Tr. 21). 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 national
economy, e. g., cutter-and-paster and final
assembler (Tr. 30-31).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to: (i) find
her obesity qualified as medically equivalent to a Listing,
(ii) properly consider her non-severe carpal tunnel syndrome,
and (iii) properly assess her credibility. Because the Court
finds the ALJ did fail to properly consider her obesity and
assess her credibility, the decision of the Commissioner must
therefore be reversed and the case remanded to the ALJ for
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
obesity, osteoarthritis, bilateral degenerative joint disease
with pain, lumbar disc disease, fibromyalgia, and psoriatic
arthritis, but that her diabetes, hypertension, carpal tunnel
syndrome status post surgeries, and sleep problems were
non-severe (Tr. 18). The medical record reveals sporadic
treatment for knee and/or leg pain prior to February 2011
(Tr. 300-12, 502-04). The imaging contained in the record
includes June 2012 x-rays of the claimant's knees which
revealed early degenerative medial and lateral ...