United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Wilene Denise Bolding 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
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 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
claimant was born December 14, 1966, and was forty-six years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 45, 132).
She completed twelfth grade, and has worked as a beautician
and companion (Tr. 63, 179). The claimant alleges inability
to work since June 1, 2005, due to bipolar disorder,
depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and arthritis (Tr.
April 26, 2012, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-85. The applications were denied. ALJ J. Frederick
Gatzke conducted an administrative hearing and determined
that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated
March 20, 2014 (Tr. 24-36). 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 steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except
that she could not climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds.
Additionally, he determined that she retained the ability to
perform detailed, non-complex tasks, but should have only
incidental contact with the public (Tr. 29). The ALJ then
concluded that the claimant was not disabled because she had
the RFC to perform her past work as a companion.
Alternatively, he found that the claimant was not disabled
because she could perform the jobs of garment bagger and
price marker (Tr. 34-35).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred: (i) by failing to
properly weigh the findings of consultative examiner, Dr.
Shalom Palacio-Holmon, and (ii) by failing to properly
evaluate her subjective symptoms. Because the ALJ does appear
to have ignored probative evidence regarding the
claimant's impairments, the decision of the Commissioner
must be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
fibromyalgia, hypertension, obesity, bipolar disorder,
generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder
(Tr. 26). The relevant medical evidence demonstrates that the
claimant received regular medication management (largely only
pharmacological management) at Mental Health Services Durant
(Tr. 281-343). Treatment notes reflect the claimant sometimes
had difficulty sleeping, but that she also took a trip to
California in 2011 to stay with a friend for five days (Tr.
287). In April 2012, the claimant reported continued
stressors and the notes indicated that the claimant's
mood was fair ...