United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
LINDA C. FULTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Linda C. Fulton 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 that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
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 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 August 20, 1955, and was fifty-nine
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 42).
She has a high school equivalent education, and has worked as
a security guard (Tr. 43, 53). The claimant alleges that she
has been unable to work since February 26, 2012, due to
depression, H. pylori, ulcers, leg cramps, and pain in her
hips, back, neck, legs and arms (Tr. 47, 217).
August 2, 2012, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits and disabled widow's benefits under Title II of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 (Tr.
185-92). Her applications were denied. ALJ Doug Gabbard, II
conducted an administrative hearing and found that the
claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated January
30, 2015 (Tr. 16-30). 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.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) (Tr.
24). The ALJ then concluded that the claimant was not
disabled because she could return to her past relevant work
as a security guard (Tr. 30).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) consider her non-severe affective disorder, and (ii)
analyze the opinions of treating physician Dr. Rick Robbins.
The Court agrees with the claimant's second contention,
and the decision of the Commissioner must therefore be
reversed and the case remanded to the ALJ for further
found the claimant's degenerative disc disease of the
back and osteoarthritis were severe impairments, but that her
weight loss, hypertension, H. pylori, bilateral carpal tunnel
release, cervical fusion surgeries, headaches, leg cramps,
and affective disorder were non-severe (Tr. 20-22). The
medical evidence relevant to this appeal reveals that Dr.
Robbins regularly treated the claimant between February 2013
and August 2014 (Tr. 479-515). Physical, neurological, and
neuropsychiatric examinations at these appointments were
consistently normal, and the claimant's diagnoses
included, inter alia, back pain, hip pain,
arthralgia, hypertension, cephalgia, degenerative joint
disease, dizziness, tension headache, leg cramps,
gastroesophageal reflux disease, and depression (Tr.
479-515). February 2013 x-rays of the claimant's lumbar
spine revealed mild degenerative disc disease at ¶ 12
through L2, and retrolisthesis of L1 on L2, L2 on L3, and L3
on L4 (Tr. 482). X-rays of the claimant's cervical ...