Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Whistler v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

February 27, 2018

LISA M. WHISTLER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEVEN P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The claimant Lisa M. Whistler 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.

         Social 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 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.[2]

         Section 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 800-01.

         Claimant's Background The claimant was born on June 3, 1981, and was thirty-four years old at the time of the most recent administrative hearing (Tr. 108). She has a high school education and vocational training in nursing, business technology, and administration assistance, and has worked as a cashier, retail manager, and apartment lessor (Tr. 129, 753).[3] The claimant alleges she has been unable to work since August 26, 2009, due mental conditions, chronic pain, diabetes, and diabetic neuropathy (Tr. 128-29).

         Procedural History

         The claimant applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, on November 18, 2010 (Tr. 108-11). Her application was denied. ALJ Bernard Porter conducted an administrative hearing and found that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated March 29, 2013 (Tr. 10-21). The Appeals Council denied review, but this Court reversed the decision of the Commissioner in Case No. CIV-13-388, and remanded the case for further consideration of the claimant's mental impairments (Tr. 598, 702). ALJ Donald Davis conducted a second administrative hearing and determined the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated September 11, 2015 (Tr. 598-615). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's September 2015 written opinion is the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential evaluation. He found the claimant retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than the full range of medium work, i. e., she could lift fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently, and could stand, walk, and sit six hours in an eight-hour workday. Additionally, the ALJ determined that the claimant could perform simple tasks, adapt to a work environment, work for two-hour intervals, have superficial interpersonal contact to work performed, have routine supervision which was simple, direct, and concrete, but could not have contact with the general public, or engage in fast-paced assembly line work (Tr. 607). The ALJ concluded that although the claimant could not return to her past relevant work, she was nevertheless not disabled because there was work in the national economy that she could perform, i. e., hand packer (Tr. 613-14).

         Review

         The claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) ignoring probative evidence related to her mental impairments, (ii) failing to conduct a longitudinal assessment of the functional limitations of her mental impairments, (iii) failing to properly analyze the state reviewing physician opinion regarding her mental RFC, and (iv) relying on vocational expert (“VE”) testimony that was not inclusive of all of her impairments. The Court agrees with the claimant's third and fourth contentions, and the decision of the Commissioner must therefore be reversed and the case remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings.

         The ALJ found that the claimant had the severe impairments of diabetes mellitus, gastritis, hernia, reflux esophagitis, obesity, gall bladder issues, history of cancer, an affective disorder, an anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, history of cannabis dependence and alcohol use (DAA), borderline intellectual functioning, and impulse control disorder (Tr. 600). The relevant medical evidence related to the claimant's mental impairments reveals that providers at the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Centers of Oklahoma treated the claimant for bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder from December 2008 through April 2009 (Tr. 227-50). Beginning in September 2010, and continuing through May 2015, providers at Carl Albert Community Mental Health Center also treated the claimant for bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (Tr. 528-33, 561-83, 755-89).

         On January 4, 2010, Randy Crittenden, Ph.D., conducted a consultative mental status examination (Tr. 399-405). He noted the claimant's mood appeared profoundly sad, and that her mood and affect were congruent and somewhat blunted (Tr. 402). He also noted her immediate memory was intact, her long term memory was good, and that she had an adequate fund of verbal information (Tr. 402). As to her concentration, Dr. Crittenden noted that although her calculation and concentration were satisfactory on other tasks, she did have some difficulty on serial sevens (Tr. 403). Regarding the claimant's judgment, he noted she appeared to be at risk for solving emergency situations in an impulsive manner (Tr. 403). Dr. Crittenden estimated the claimant's intellectual quotient was eighty or higher (Tr. 403). He diagnosed the claimant with alcohol dependence, sustained partial remission; major depressive disorder, severe, without psychotic features; posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic; noncompliance with treatment; psychotic disorder ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.