United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Megan Brooke Weeks 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 Commissioner's decision is hereby REVERSED and
the case 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 July 10, 1995, and was nineteen years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 177, 181).
She has a high school education, some college, and no past
relevant work (Tr. 25, 38-39). The claimant alleges that she
has been unable to work since April 8, 2013, due to a blood
clotting disorder, blood clots in her brain, migraine
headaches, seizures, and mini-strokes (Tr. 218).
14, 2013, 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 insurance
payments under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 177-86). Her applications
were denied. ALJ James Bentley conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated January 7, 2015 (Tr. 10-27). 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. §§ 404.981,
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”) perform work at all exertional
levels, but must avoid working at unprotected heights or
around dangerous moving machinery, and was unable to climb
ropes, ladders, or scaffolds (Tr. 23). The ALJ concluded that
the claimant was not disabled because there was work that she
could perform in the national economy, e. g., office
helper, sales attendant, and furniture rental clerk (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) evaluate the opinion of treating physician Dr. David Lee
Gordon, and (ii) discuss the vocational expert's
testimony regarding accommodation requirements for
individuals who have suffered a seizure at work. The Court
agrees with the claimant's first contention, and the
decision of the Commissioner must therefore be reversed.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of seizure
disorder and migraine headaches (Tr. 15, 22). The record
reveals that the claimant began experiencing headaches
shortly after giving birth to her daughter in April 2013 (Tr.
365, 667-718). She presented to the McAlester Regional Health
Center Emergency Room (“MRHC”) on April 8, 2013,
and was diagnosed with a post-epidural headache (Tr. 667-79).
The claimant returned two days later and reported headache,
neck pain, bilateral shoulder pain, twitching in her left
eye, bilateral leg numbness, and a change in vision (Tr.
683-96). A nurse noted that the claimant would follow
commands, but could not speak, and had a blank stare upon
admission (Tr. 683). A CT scan of the claimant's brain
revealed venous thrombosis (Tr. 691). Thereafter, the
claimant was transferred to OU Medical Center where she
received inpatient care for five days (Tr. 329-68). In a
discharge summary on April 15, 2013, Dr. Gordon diagnosed the
claimant with, inter alia, cerebral vein thrombosis
(“CVT”) due to postpartum state and likely
underlying primary hypercoagulable state; complex partial
seizures secondary to CVT; migraine headache with
aura-visual, sensory, and vertigo; and abdominal and
precordial migraine (Tr. 365-68). At a follow-up appointment
with Dr. Gordon on July 11, 2013, he noted the claimant had a
seizure shortly after her April 2013 discharge, but had not
experienced any additional seizures since then, and that her
headaches were much improved (Tr. 822). Dr. Gordon's
treatment notes dated October 8, 2013, reflect that the
claimant experienced seizures in August and September 2013
(Tr. 808). Dr. Gordon also noted that an MRI of her brain
dated September 16, 2013, showed definite improvement, but
that a small residual lesion remained that may explain her
persistent seizures, and that the claimant had not had any
migraines since her July 2013 visit (Tr. 809). At a follow-up
appointment on November 3, 2014, Dr. Gordon noted the
claimant had a seizure on January 13, 2014; he released the
claimant to drive on July 15, 2014, because she had been
seizure free for six months; she remained seizure free
through the date of his exam; and that her seizures were well
controlled with medication (Tr. 849-50). As to her migraines,
Dr. Gordon noted the claimant experienced them every one or
two weeks, which was an improvement from three times per
week, and that they were well controlled (Tr. 850). The same
day, Dr. Gordon completed a Medical Source Statement
(“MSS”) wherein he ...