United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
DONITA K. BRATCHER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Donita K. Bracher 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 should be 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 August 27, 1962, and was fifty-two years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 29). She
completed her GED, and has no past relevant work (Tr. 17,
248). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to work
since her application date of January 31, 2011, due to lupus,
chronic pain, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, and arthritis
April 14, 2012, the claimant applied for supplemental
security income payments under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her application
was denied. ALJ Angelita Hamilton conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated February 4, 2015 (Tr. 8-19). 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. § 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
She found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.967(b), except that she could never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; she could only occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, and use upper
right extremity to overhead reach; she could frequently
balance and bilateral reach sideways and forward. Finally,
the ALJ determined that work must be limited to simple,
routine, and repetitive tasks, and only occasional
interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and the public, and
that she must be free of production rate pace (Tr. 14). The
ALJ then concluded that although the claimant had no past
relevant work to return to, she was nevertheless not disabled
because there was other work she could perform, i.
e., blood donor unit assistant, recreation aide, and
cafeteria attendant (Tr. 17-18).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
propose a hypothetical that encompassed all her impairments
in the RFC for jobs at steps four and five; (ii) failing to
properly consider the evidence, specifically as to state
reviewing physicians and consultative examiner opinions;
(iii) failing to properly assess her credibility; and (iv)
violating res judicata when she referenced evidence
form a prior application but did not re-open the earlier
claim. Because the ALJ failed to properly analyze the
evidence in the record, the decision of the Commissioner
should be reversed.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of bipolar
disorder, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease, as well
as the nonsevere impairment of fibromyalgia (Tr. 11).
Relevant medical records indicate that the claimant ...