United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Melissa Ann Glinn 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 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 January 27, 1969, and was forty-five
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 156,
354). She completed two years of college, and has worked as a
casino manager and sales clerk (Tr. 151, 395). The claimant
alleges she has been unable to work since August 24, 2010,
due to bipolar disorder, anxiety, seizures, heart disorder,
sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and split personality
(Tr. 122, 394).
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 October 29, 2012. Her applications were denied.
ALJ James Bentley conducted an administrative hearing and
found that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion
dated August 22, 2014 (Tr. 120-155). The Appeals Council
denied review, so ALJ Bentley's written opinion is the
final decision of the Commissioner 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 the claimant retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform 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, and stand/walk and sit six hours in an
eight-hour workday, but that she had the additional postural
limitations of occasionally stooping, crouching, crawling,
kneeling, balancing, and climbing ramps and stairs.
Furthermore, he found that she was unable to climb ropes,
ladders, or scaffolds, and that she could have no exposure to
unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery. He
determined that she needed a sit/stand option, defined as a
temporary change in position every thirty minutes and without
leaving the workstation so as not to diminish pace or
production. Finally, he limited her to simple tasks with
routine supervision, and occasional contact with co-workers
and supervisors, but no work-related contact with the general
public (Tr. 126). The ALJ concluded that although the
claimant could not return to her past relevant work, she was
nevertheless not disabled because there was other work that
she could perform, i. e., small products assembler,
garment bagger, and electronics worker (Tr. 152).
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ erred
in evaluating the opinions of two treating physicians, Dr.
Mark Rubertus and Dr. Charles Van Tuyl. The Court agrees with
the claimant, and the Commissioner's decision should
therefore be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
obesity, sleep apnea, seizure disorder (likely
pseudoseizures), chronic pain syndrome, type II diabetes
mellitus, tachycardia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, history
of left humeral shaft fracture, cervical radiculopathy, neck
pain, mild cervical spinal stenosis, spondylitis, bipolar
disorder, mood disorder NOS, panic disorder with agoraphobia
v. PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic
traits (Tr. 123). Relevant medical records reflect treatment
notes from Dr. Rubertus for the claimant from 2007 through
2015. Notes reflect treatment related to various impairments,
including seizure disorder (that was largely considered to be
pseudoseizures), obesity, PTSD, fibromyalgia, type II
diabetes, borderline personality disorder, sleep apnea, panic
disorder, GERD (Tr., e. g., 576-757, 1155-1166).
Once the claimant's sleep apnea was diagnosed around
2011, Dr. ...