United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
claimant Thomas Roy Gordon requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) 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. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and
REMANDED 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 December 15, 1960, and was fifty-four
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr.
148). He has a high school education, some college, and has
worked as a retail store manager, cashier, tractor operator,
unit assembler, and industrial truck operator (Tr. 63, 173).
The claimant alleges that he has been unable to work since
October 1, 2012, due to diabetes, neuropathy, hand numbness,
and high blood pressure (Tr. 172).
claimant applied for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434, on September 4, 2013 (Tr. 148-49). His application
was denied. ALJ Doug Gabbard, II held an administrative
hearing, and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated February 26, 2015 (Tr. 12-37). 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. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work
as defined in 20 CFR § 404.1567(b) with occasional
climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling, and never walking on uneven surfaces or pushing or
pulling with his feet (Tr. 22). Additionally, the ALJ found
the claimant must avoid even moderate exposure to dust,
fumes, odors, and other pulmonary irritants, and have the
ability to change positions every ten to fifteen minutes
without leaving the workstation (Tr. 22). The ALJ concluded
that the claimant was not disabled because he could return to
his past relevant work as a cashier, and alternatively
because there was work he could perform in the national
economy, e. g., small product assembler and arcade
attendant (Tr. 32-36).
claimant contends that: (i) the ALJ failed to properly
analyze the medical opinions of treating physician Dr. Lewis
and consultative examiner Dr. Javersak, and (ii) the Appeals
Council failed to properly consider treating physician Dr.
Farrow's medical opinion evidence. Because the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence in light of
the evidence submitted to the Appeals Council, the decision
of the Commissioner must be reversed and the case remanded to
the ALJ for further proceedings.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, right knee osteoarthritis,
and emphysema, and the non-severe impairments of obesity,
hypertension, chest pain, hyperlipidemia, indigestion,
constipation, dizziness, background retinopathy, fatigue,
sleeping problems, hyperprolactinemia, headaches, and
depressive disorder NOS (Tr. 14-21). He also found that the
claimant's alleged gout and hand neuropathy were not
medically determinable (Tr. 21). The medical evidence
relevant to this appeal reveals that the claimant presented
to Caring Hands Healthcare Center (“CHHC”) on
September 20, 2013, and reported pain in his feet radiating
to his knees, and dizziness, weakness, and blurred vision
when he is exposed to heat (Tr. 236). Nurse practitioner
Heather Johnston examined the claimant and found he had
normal range of motion, muscle strength, and stability in all
extremities with no edema or pain on inspection (Tr. 239). As
to the claimant's gait, Ms. Johnston ...