United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Korie Elizabeth Stevens 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 that
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby REVERSED and
the case is 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 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 April 5, 1975, and was thirty-nine years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 59, 228,
232). She has a high school education and three years of
college, and has previously worked as a pharmacy technician
(Tr. 75, 83-84, 250). The claimant alleges that she has been
unable to work since February 16, 2010, due to degenerative
disc disease, panic attacks, osteoarthritis, diabetes, gout,
dysthymic depression, fibromyalgia, lack of cartilage in her
knees, tennis elbow, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome
29, 2013, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and on June 18, 2013, she applied for
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her
applications were denied. ALJ Doug Gabbard, II conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated February 10, 2015
(Tr. 33-47). 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 step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c),
except that she was limited to semiskilled work (work which
requires understanding, remembering, and carrying out some
detailed skills, but does not require doing more complex work
duties) where interpersonal contact with supervisors and
coworkers is on a superficial work basis, contact with the
public is occasional, and where there are only occasional
changes in the workplace (Tr. 38). Additionally, the ALJ
found that the claimant could attend and concentrate for
extended periods with normal work breaks (Tr. 38). The ALJ
concluded that although the claimant could not return to her
past relevant work, she was nevertheless not disabled because
there was work she could perform, i. e., janitor and
laundry worker I (Tr. 46).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
evaluate the opinion of treating physician Dr. Carol
Gambrill. The Court agrees, and the decision of the
Commissioner must therefore be reversed and the case remanded
to the ALJ for further proceedings.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
morbid obesity, diabetes mellitus, degenerative disc disease
of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the knees,
depression, and anxiety, but that her alleged fibromyalgia,
gout, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, migraine
headaches, and asthma were non-severe (Tr. 35-36). The
relevant medical records as to the claimant's physical
impairments reveal that she established care with orthopedist
Dr. Chad Crawley on January 3, 2011 (Tr. 351-55). At this
initial appointment, Dr. Crawley noted the claimant weighed
over 350 pounds, had an antalgic gait pattern, and had
decreased range of motion in her lumbar spine (Tr. 351). He
also noted she had good range of motion in her knees
(“almost hyperextension”), and no evidence of
instability, but experienced pain along the medial joint line
of both knees (Tr. 351). Dr. Crawley diagnosed the claimant
with moderate osteoarthritis in her knees and a possible
medial meniscus tear in her right knee (Tr. 351). An MRI of
the claimant's right knee conducted on January 7, 2011,
revealed maceration of the medial margin of the medial
meniscus, edema of the medial collateral ligament, a small
joint effusion, and an injury or degenerative change in both
the medial epicondylar region and the medial tibial plateau
region (Tr. 360). Thereafter, Dr. Crawley administered
corticosteroid injections in the claimant's right knee in
January 2011, September 2011, October 2012, and June 2014,
and in both knees in March 2012, March 2013, and October 2013
(Tr. 340, 345, 349, 479-80, 482-83). Additionally, Dr.
Crawley administered a series of three viscosupplement
injections in the claimant's right knee in October 2011
(Tr. 341-43). A whole body bone scan performed on November
11, 2012, revealed a likely degenerative or stress related
right knee injury, but no spinal abnormalities (Tr. 373). In
a treatment note dated March 15, 2013, Dr. Crawley indicated
an x-ray of the claimant's right knee taken that day
revealed severe varus deformity with bone on bone contact in
the medial department, lateral psuedosubluxation of the
tibial plateau, advanced arthritic changes at the