United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Ray Griffin 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision should be REVERSED and
the case REMANDED for further proceedings.
Security Law and Standard of Review
Disability 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 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 December 5, 1962, and was fifty-two years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 37, 43).
He completed the twelfth grade, and has worked as a
roustabout, material handler, derrick hand, and roughneck
(Tr. 24, 253). The claimant alleges that he has been unable
to work since August 15, 2012, due to chronic pain, hip pain,
back pain, short term memory loss, leg pain, and tinnitus
February 1, 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
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. His applications were denied.
ALJ Michael Harris held an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated February 5, 2015 (Tr. 15-25). The Appeals
Council denied review; thus, 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 less than the full range of light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b), but that he could understand, remember, and carry
out simple instructions; relate to others on a superficial
work basis; and he can adapt to a work situation (Tr. 19).
The ALJ concluded that although the claimant could not return
to his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not disabled
because there was work in the economy he could perform,
i. e., sub assembler or electrical equipment,
assembler of small products II, and press operator (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) stating that the
claimant's anxiety both was and was not a severe
impairment, (ii) failing to assign weight to the opinions of
the state reviewing physicians, (iii) failing to include
postural limitations related to his physical impairment, (iv)
failing to properly account for his severe mental impairment,
(v) failing to consider the cumulative effects of his
impairments, and (vi) failing to account for evidence from
his Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The undersigned
Magistrate Judge agrees with the claimant's fourth and
sixth contentions related to assessing the claimant's
RFC, and the decision of the Commissioner should therefore be
reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of anxiety
disorder and degenerative disc disease, then stated that the
claimant's anxiety and substance addiction disorder, as
well as his hypothyroidism, were nonsevere (Tr. 17-18). The
relevant medical evidence reveals that the claimant's
treating physician treated him for anxiety, and although it
improved with medication, he was still noted to have
emotional lability (Tr. 355, 424). Treatment notes from the
VA indicate that the claimant struggled with depression and
anxiety, reporting depression at an eight on a ten-point
scale and anxiety at a nine on a ten-point scale, and that he
continued to be treated for anxiety and depression with
counseling and medication management (Tr. 374, 382, 411,
455). On February 7, 2013, the claimant was seen for a
therapy session at the VA and it was noted that he appeared
to be struggling with depression and anxiety (Tr. 474). On
February 11, 2013, the claimant was admitted to the ...