United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
ANTOINETTE M. SCHULTZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Antoinette Schultz 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 January 3, 1969, and was forty-five years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 45). She
completed the eleventh grade, and has no past relevant work
(Tr. 35, 162). The claimant alleges she has been unable to
work since November 30, 2011, due to rheumatoid arthritis,
asthma, hepatitis C, depression, and bipolar disorder (Tr.
October 31, 2012, the claimant applied for supplemental
security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her application
was denied. ALJ Lantz McClain conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated October 22, 2014 (Tr. 26-36). 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. § 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step 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), i. e., she could lift/carry
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, sit and
stand/walk for six hours each in an eight-hour workday. The
ALJ imposed the further limitations of no more than
frequently kneeling, crouching, or crawling; avoiding work
above the shoulder level; and avoiding concentrated exposure
to dust, gases, fumes, or poor ventilation (Tr. 31). The ALJ
concluded that although the claimant had no past relevant
work to return to, she was nevertheless not disabled because
there was work she could perform, i. e., the
representative occupations of courier and cafeteria attendant
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
perform a proper evaluation at steps four and five, (ii)
failing to properly evaluate the source evidence, and (iii)
failing to conduct a proper credibility determination. As to
the first two arguments, the claimant specifically contends
that the ALJ erred by wholly failing to account for her
mental impairments, and the Court agrees. Accordingly, the
decision of the Commissioner is therefore reversed.
two, the ALJ determined that the claimant had the severe
impairments of osteoarthritis, asthma, and obesity, as well
as the nonsevere impairments of depression and anxiety (Tr.
28). The evidence in the record related to the claimant's
mental impairments indicates that she largely received
treatment through the Cherokee Nation Health Services (Tr.
230-342), and her diagnoses included asthma, lipid disorder,
hepatitis C, substance abuse, seasonal allergies, anxiety,
depression, panic attacks, dyslipidemia, and GERD (Tr. 232).
Positive depression screening and notes reflecting the
claimant's reported anxiety go back at least as far as
2010 (Tr. 293, 317, ...