United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
JAMES D. HECK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant James D. Heck 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 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 the 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 September 4, 1960, and was fifty-three
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 37).
He completed his GED, and has worked as a tanker-trailer
truck driver, general maintenance worker, and truck driver
(Tr. 25, 182). The claimant alleges inability to work since
February 6, 2012, due to spots on his lungs (Tr. 181).
December 10, 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 benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-85. Both applications were denied. ALJ
Bernard Porter conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated November 26, 2014 (Tr. 16-27). 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. §§ 404.981 416.1481.
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) and 416.967(b), finding that he
could lift/carry/push/pull twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently and sit/stand/walk each for six hours in an
eight-hour workday, but that he could only have occasional
use of foot and hand controls, overhead reaching, kneeling
and climbing ramps and stairs; frequent stooping and
crouching; but that he could never crawl or work around
unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts, and that he
should avoid an environment where there are temperature
extremes. Furthermore, he stated that time off tasks would be
accommodated by normal breaks, but that the claimant did
require a sit/stand option which allows for a change in
position at least every thirty minutes for a brief positional
change lasting no more than three to four minutes at a time
(Tr. 21). The ALJ 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, i.
e., cashier, arcade attendant, and small product
assembler (Tr. 25-25).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred: (i) in his RFC analysis
with regard to mental limitations, and (ii) by failing to
properly consider the medical evidence, specifically with
regard to weighing a consultative examiner's opinion and
treatment records. Because the ALJ does appear to have erred
in assessing the evidence with regard to the claimant's
RFC, the decision of the Commissioner must be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
lumbar disc disease, mild degenerative joint disease of the
right shoulder, and history of drug abuse (Tr. 18). The
medical evidence in the record is sparse, so the claimant was
sent for two separate consultative examinations. At the
administrative hearing, the claimant testified that he had no
insurance or money to pay for ...