United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Roy Dale Neel requests judicial review of a denial
of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
claimant appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts
that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred
in determining he was not disabled. As discussed below, the
undersigned Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the
Commissioner's decision 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 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 on July 11, 1975, and was forty years old
at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 36). He
completed the tenth grade, and has worked as a car salesman,
gambling dealer, and fast food manager (Tr. 48-49, 220). The
claimant alleges he has been unable to work since October 31,
2013, due to heart problems, obstructive sleep apnea, high
cholesterol, high blood pressure, narcolepsy, cataplexy,
carotid artery disease, heart stents, and obesity (Tr. 219).
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, on December 20, 2013. His applications were denied.
ALJ Richard J. Kallsnick conducted an administrative hearing
and found that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated August 19, 2015 (Tr. 8-16). The Appeals Council
denied review, so the ALJ's written opinion is the final
decision of the Commissioner for purposes of this appeal.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
He found the claimant retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform the a limited range
of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), i. e., he is able to
lift/carry/push/pull no more than twenty pounds occasionally
and ten pounds frequently, stand/walk for four hours out of
an eight-hour workday, and sit for six to eight hours out of
an eight-hour workday, all with normal breaks. The ALJ
further noted that the claimant has a Tenth Grade education
with good ability to read, write, and use numbers, and that
he could use his hands for hand controls and feet for foot
controls; could occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; had no limitation in
stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; must avoid
hazards such as moving machinery and dangerous heights, and
should not drive a motor vehicle due to cataplexy.
Furthermore, the ALJ determined that the claimant was
afflicted with symptomatology from a variety of sources of
sufficient severity as to be noticeable to him at all times,
but that he would nonetheless be able to remain attentive and
responsive in a work setting and could carry out normal work
assignments satisfactorily. Finally, the ALJ noted that the
claimant's medications did not preclude him from
functioning at the light level, as restricted, and that the
claimant would remain reasonably alert to perform required
functions in the work setting (Tr. 11-12). The ALJ thus
concluded that the claimant could return to his past relevant
work as a car salesperson and card dealer/gambling dealer
claimant alleges that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly assess the opinion of his treating physician, Dr.
Newnam; and (ii) failing to properly assess his RFC. The
undersigned Magistrate Judge agrees with the claimant's
first contention, and the Commissioner's decision should
therefore be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
narcolepsy with cataplexy, carotid artery disease, status
post stent implants, and obesity, as well as the nonsevere
impairments of obstructive sleep apnea and hypertension (Tr.
11). Relevant medical records reflect that the claimant had a
small non-ST elevation myocardial infarction and underwent
stenting in June 2010 (Tr. 301). He again reported chest pain
and shortness of breath in August 2013 and he underwent
further cardiac catheterization, which resulted in a finding
that the claimant had mild coronary artery disease, widely
patent circumflex and OM2 stent, normal LV function, and that
his chest ...