United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Bonnie Sue Dehart requests judicial review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C.
405(g) of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration denying her application for benefits
under the Social Security Act. She appeals the decision of
the Commissioner and asserts that 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[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 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.
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is
limited to two inquiries: 1) whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence, and 2) whether the correct
legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v. Chater,
113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997) [citation omitted]. The
term “substantial evidence” requires
“‘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). However, the Court may not reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. See
Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 933
F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, 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 800-01.
claimant was born on December 19, 1956, and was fifty-nine
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 38,
200). She earned her GED, and has previously worked as a
nurse aide (Tr. 65, 233). The claimant alleges she has been
unable to work since June 29, 2014, due to a stroke, severe
uncontrollable high blood pressure, high cholesterol and
triglycerides, elevated white blood cell count, and high
blood sugar (Tr. 232).
7, 2014, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and on July 18, 2014, she applied for
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her
applications were denied. ALJ James Stewart held an
administrative hearing and determined the claimant was not
disabled in a written decision dated November 25, 2016 (Tr.
19-32). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's
written decision represents 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 steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), except
that she could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, nor
could she crawl or have exposure to unprotected heights, open
flames, dangerous machinery/equipment, or other hazardous
conditions. Additionally, he determined that she could
understand, remember, and carry out simple or intermediate
level instructions and perform simple and some tasks of
intermediate level difficulty under routine supervision, such
that she is capable of doing simple or at most semi-skilled
work; that she could relate to supervisors and co-workers on
a superficial basis; and that she could adapt to work
situations (Tr. 24). The ALJ thus concluded that the claimant
was capable of performing her past relevant work as a nurse
aide (Tr. 30). Alternatively, the ALJ determined that there
was other work in the national and regional economy that she
could perform, i. e., laundry worker, hand packager,
and industrial sweeper/cleaner (Tr. 32).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly assess her RFC, and (ii) improperly determining that
she could return to her past relevant work. As part of the
alleged RFC errors, the claimant alleges errors related to
failure to account for left-sided weakness and the need for a
cane, failure to develop the record with regard to her mental
impairments, and failing to account for her subjective
complaints. The undersigned Magistrate Judge finds that ...