United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Jan Darlene Warrior 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 on March 9, 1958, and was fifty-seven years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 34). She
has a high school education and vocational training in
phlebotomy, and has worked as a seamstress (Tr. 35-36, 46).
The claimant alleges that she has been unable to work since
May 9, 2014, due to depression, high blood pressure, back
pain, nerve pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis
10, 2014, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85, on July 15, 2014 (Tr. 161-77).
Her applications were denied. ALJ Larry D. Shepherd conducted
an administrative hearing and found that the claimant was not
disabled in a written opinion dated March 1, 2016 (Tr.
14-24). 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 four 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),
416.967(b), i. e., she could lift/carry twenty
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; sit/stand/walk
for about six hours during an eight-hour workday; and
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and
reach overhead (Tr. 19). The ALJ then concluded that the
claimant was not disabled because she could return to her
past relevant work as a seamstress (Tr. 23-24).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) analyze the opinions of treating physician Dr. Osborn,
(ii) weigh the opinions of the state agency physicians, (iii)
analyze the opinion of consultative examiner Dr. Buffington,
and (iv) assess her RFC. The Court agrees with the
claimant's first and third contentions, and the decision
of the Commissioner must therefore be reversed and the case
remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings.
found the claimant's obesity, degenerative disc disease,
hypertension, generalized osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia
were severe impairments, but that her depression was
non-severe (Tr. 17). The medical evidence relevant to this
appeal reveals that Dr. Osborn regularly treated the claimant
between March 2013 and November 2015 (Tr. 326-48, 411-55). In
March and April 2013, Dr. Osborn treated the claimant for
depression, hypertension, neuropathy, and lumbar disc disease
(Tr. 347-48). At the claimant's next follow-up
appointment in April 2014, Dr. Osborn indicated the claimant
was tender in all areas of her spine and in all of her
joints, and he diagnosed her with osteoarthritis (Tr.
343-45). The claimant was involved in a motor vehicle
accident on May 9, 2014, and CT scans of her abdomen and
chest revealed subcutaneous contusions, while a CT scan of
her cervical spine revealed shallow cervical lordosis with
left curvature possibly representative of spasm, and mild
spondylosis anteriorly and posteriorly at ¶ 5-6 (Tr.
332-41). In August 2014, the claimant reported that her low
back was still significantly worse than before the accident,
but “[e]verything else seems to be doing better.”
(Tr. 411). Dr. Osborn again noted tenderness in all areas of
her spine and in all of her joints, but his examination was
otherwise normal (Tr. 412). At a follow-up appointment on
October 28, 2014, the claimant reported pain in her arms and
knees as well as significant back pain radiating into ...