United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
JACKIE R. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Jackie R. Johnson 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 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 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 November 8, 1966, and was forty-seven years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 29, 184).
He completed the twelfth grade, and has worked as truck
driver and machine operator (Tr. 20, 216). The claimant
alleges inability to work since December 31, 2007, due to
depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and dyslexia (Tr.
November 9, 2012, 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
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. His applications were denied.
ALJ J. Frederick Gatzke conducted an administrative hearing
and determined that the claimant was not disabled in a
written opinion dated December 2, 2014 (Tr. 13-21). 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 had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b), except that he could
only occasionally stoop, crouch, and kneel, and never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Additionally, the ALJ found
that the claimant could frequently use the right dominant
hand for reaching, handling, and fingering, but could not
perform work requiring he drive a motor vehicle. Finally, the
ALJ found that the claimant was able to perform simple one to
two-step repetitive instructions, and that he could have
incidental contact with the public and occasionally
collaborate with coworkers (Tr. 17). The ALJ thus concluded
that although the claimant could not return to his past
relevant work, he was nevertheless not disabled because there
was work he could perform, e. g., motel housekeeper,
conveyor line bakery worker, and small product assembler (Tr.
claimant argues that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
incorporate moderate limitations with regard to
concentration, persistence, and pace; and (ii) failing to
properly evaluate the opinion of his treating physician
assistant. Because the Court finds that the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate the claimant's mental impairments in
light of the records and opinion from the claimant's
treating physician assistant, the decision of the
Commissioner must be reversed and the case remanded for
medical evidence reveals that the claimant had the severe
impairments of right ganglionic cyst, right carpal tunnel
syndrome, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder (Tr. 15). As
relevant to this appeal, the medical records reveal that the
claimant almost exclusively received treatment at the Rowland
Flatt Hugo Rural Health Clinic by Physician Assistant Albert
McLemore who was supervised by Dr. Teddy Rowland. Notes from
Mr. McLemore indicate a lengthy treatment history for anxiety
and depression (Tr. 306-383, 411-439, 456-490). Although he
did not report anxiety symptoms at every appointment, the
treatment notes have recurring notations regarding the
claimant being positive for anxiety (Tr., e. g.,
306, 316, 320, 348, 363, 419, 456, 460). One notation states
that the claimant had previously been in counseling but that
he was currently unable to afford to go (Tr. 314). The