United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Robert Lee Calbert, Jr., 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 set forth
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 April 3, 1970, and was forty-five years old
at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 757). He
earned a GED, and has past relevant work as a donut maker,
manager of a restaurant, and short order cook (Tr. 180, 722).
The claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since
September 14, 2011, due to major depressive disorder, anxiety
disorder, panic disorder, alcohol addiction, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma (Tr. 179).
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 November 23, 2011. His applications were denied.
ALJ Bernard Porter conducted an administrative hearing and
found that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion
dated September 24, 2013 (Tr. 7-31). The Appeals Council
denied review, but this Court reversed in Case No.
CIV-14-489-SPS, and remanded upon motion by the Commissioner
(Tr. 843-848). Upon remand, the Appeals Council instructed
the ALJ to, inter alia, further evaluate the
claimant's mental impairments and give further
consideration to the claimant's maximum RFC (Tr. 852). On
remand, ALJ David W. Engel held a second administrative
hearing and again determined that the claimant was not
disabled in a written opinion dated January 27, 2016 (Tr.
690-724). The Appeals Council denied review, so ALJ
Engel's written opinion is the final decision of the
Commissioner for purposes of this appeal. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform “between light work and
sedentary work, i. e., he could lift/carry/push/pull
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently,
stand/walk two hours total in an eight-hour workday with
regular breaks, and sit for six hours total with regular
breaks, but he could only occasionally climb ramps/stairs,
bend, stoop, crouch, crawl, perform overhead reaching, and
use foot pedals and he could never climb
ropes/ladders/scaffolds or be exposed to unprotected heights,
dangerous moving machinery parts, or environments where he
would be exposed to extremes of temperature. Furthermore, the
ALJ determined that the claimant could understand, remember,
and carry out simple instructions in a work-related setting,
but could only occasionally interact with the general public
(regardless of whether interaction took place on the
telephone or not), and he could remain attentive and
responsive in a work setting and would be able to perform
work assignments within these limitations (Tr. 707-708). The
ALJ concluded that although the claimant could not return to
his past relevant work as a driver, he was nevertheless not
disabled because there was work he could perform in the
regional and national economy, i. e., clerical
mailer, assembler, and stuffer (Tr. 722-724).
claimant's sole contention of error is that the ALJ erred
by improperly rejecting a number of opinions from his
treating physician, Dr. Terry Hoyt. The Court agrees with the
claimant's contention and finds that the decision of the
Commissioner should therefore be reversed and the case
remanded for further analysis.
Engel determined that the claimant's severe impairments
were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, right ankle
sprain, depression, anxiety with panic attacks, and drug
and/or alcohol abuse (Tr. 696). Relevant medical records
reflect that Dr. Hoyt treated the claimant for a number of
years, until approximately 2015 when he passed away (Tr.