United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
RAY D. POTTS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Ray D. Potts 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 on June 11, 1970, and was forty-four years
old at the time of the most recent administrative hearing
(Tr. 235). He has a high school education, and has worked as
a meter reader and municipal worker (Tr. 64-65, 259). The
claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since April
11, 2011, due to a left ankle injury, chronic ankle pain,
knee pain, and stiffness and tendonitis in his hands (Tr.
September 6, 2011, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 (Tr. 235-36). His application
was denied. ALJ Edmund Were conducted an administrative
hearing and found that the claimant was not disabled in a
written opinion dated May 9, 2013 (Tr. 113-22). The Appeals
Council remanded the case on June 11, 2014 (Tr. 127-29). On
remand, ALJ Edmund Were conducted another administrative
hearing and again found that the clamant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated May 13, 2015 (Tr. 17-38). The Appeals
Council denied review, so the ALJ's May 2015 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 a limited range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), i.
e., he could lift/carry ten pounds frequently and twenty
pounds occasionally; sit/stand/walk six hours out of an
eight-hour workday; frequently handle, finger, or feel
bilaterally; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and
never be exposed to temperature extremes, humidity extremes,
or wetness (Tr. 24). 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 in the
national economy he could perform, e. g., counter
clerk, conveyor line bakery worker, call out operator, and
semiconductor bonder (Tr. 37).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
analyze the opinion of treating physician Dr. Green, and the
Court agrees. The Commissioner's decision must therefore
be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.
found that the claimant's degenerative joint disease in
the left ankle, osteoarthritis right knee post ACL repair,
and degenerative changes at the first carpometacarpal joints
and old healed right fifth metacarpal fracture were severe
impairments, but that his alleged anxiety and depression were
non-severe (Tr. 21). The medical evidence relevant to this
appeal reveals that the claimant underwent arthroscopic
debridement with resection of small tibial osteophytes on his
left ankle in October 2000 (Tr. 462-63). Dr. Watts released