United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
MICHAEL D. MORGAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Michael D. Morgan 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 that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he 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 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 February 27, 1969, and was forty-five years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 170, 172).
He has at least an eighth grade education, vocational
training in computer repair and graphic design, and has
worked as a graphic designer (Tr. 49, 67). The claimant
alleges he has been unable to work since an amended onset
date of October 31, 2012, due to bipolar disorder,
depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep disorder,
neck and back injuries, a learning disability, high
cholesterol, and numbness in his feet and hands (Tr. 37, 192,
October 16, 2012, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and on October 19, 2012, he
applied for supplemental security income benefits under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-85 (Tr. 170-77). His applications were denied. ALJ James
Bentley held an administrative hearing and determined that
the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated
September 9, 2014 (Tr. 13-26). 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,
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 sedentary work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a),
with frequent, but not constant, handling and fingering with
the right upper extremity, and a sit/stand option defined as
a temporary change in position from sitting to standing and
vice versa with no more than one change in position every
half-hour without leaving the workstation so as to not
diminish pace or production (Tr. 17). He further imposed the
psychologically-based limitations that the claimant could
perform simple, repetitive tasks with routine supervision,
and could have occasional contact with co-workers and
supervisors, but no work-related contact with the general
public (Tr. 17). The ALJ then concluded that although the
claimant could not return to his past relevant work, he was
nevertheless not disabled because there was work he could
perform in the national economy, e. g., document
preparer, clerical mailer, and touch-up screener (Tr. 25).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) account for his moderate difficulty in maintaining
concentration, persistence, or pace; and (ii) evaluate the
opinion of counselor Rachel Hattensty. The Court agrees with
the claimant's second contention, and the decision of the
Commissioner must therefore be reversed.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of back
pain, right hand neuropathy, diabetes, hypertension, obesity,
anxiety, mood disorder, bipolar disorder, personality
disorder, substance abuse by history, and depression (Tr.
15). The medical evidence related to the claimant's
mental impairments reveals that his treatment largely
consisted of medication management from varying providers at
the Choctaw Nation Medical Center (“CNMC”) (Tr.
354-98, 458-84, 533-630, 683-714, 758-61, 772-858). His
mental health treatment at CNMC dates back as far as May
2007, and his diagnoses included panic disorder, anxiety,
depression, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder not
otherwise specified (Tr. 394-98, 483, 535). In ...