United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Linda Kay Anderson 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision of the Commissioner is hereby REVERSED
and the case is REMANDED 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 February 15, 1956, and was fifty-eight
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 29,
144). She earned her GED, and has worked as a radio
dispatcher, collection clerk, bartender, and correction
officer (Tr. 23-24, 167). The claimant alleges she has been
unable to work since November 21, 2013, due to diabetes, high
blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
scarring on her heart, and many other medical problems (Tr.
November 21, 2013, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Her application was denied.
ALJ Doug Gabbard, II, conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated March 6, 2015 (Tr. 14-24). The Appeals Council
denied review, so the ALJ's opinion represents 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 four 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), i. e., she could lift/carry ten
pounds frequently and twenty pounds occasionally, stand/walk
and sit each for six hours in an eight-hour workday, except
that she could only frequently balance and stoop; only
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; and could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds (Tr.
18). The ALJ thus concluded that the claimant could return to
her past relevant work as a dispatcher and as a collection
clerk (Tr. 23-24).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly assess the opinion of her treating physician, Dr.
Larry Lewis, and (ii) failing to account for all her
impairments in the RFC assessment, particularly her mental
limitations. The Court agrees that the ALJ failed to properly
assess the claimant's RFC at step four, and the decision
of the Commissioner is therefore reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
chronic pain and mild degenerative joint disease of the left
knee, as well as the nonsevere impairments of COPD/emphysema,
essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chest pain and
scarring of the heart, left leg problems, GERD, profuse
perspiration with minimal exertion, rash, knee pain,
pneumonia, dizziness, tobacco abuse, sleeping
problems/insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks (Tr. 16-17).
The record reflects that the claimant was largely treated at
the Mercy Clinic in McAlester, Oklahoma, by Dr. Lewis (Tr.
245-279, 303-325, 331-340, 351-356, 375-392). Treatment notes
mostly reflect recitation of the claimant's medications,