United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Katrina Hitsman 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 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[.]” 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 April 15, 1964, and was forty-eight
years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 55).
She has a tenth grade education, and has worked as a
restaurant manager (Tr. 55, 75). The claimant alleges that
she has been unable to work since March 30, 2011, due to
depression (Tr. 176, 197).
April 27, 2011, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434 (Tr. 176-82). Her application was
denied. ALJ David Engel conducted an administrative hearing
and determined that the claimant was not disabled in a
written opinion dated December 14, 2012 (Tr. 29-43). The
Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's opinion is
the final decision of the Commissioner 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 medium, light, and
sedentary work, except that she was unable to climb ropes,
ladders, and scaffolds, or work in environments where she
would be exposed to unprotected heights and dangerous moving
machinery parts (Tr. 34). The ALJ found that the claimant
could understand, remember, and carry out simple to
moderately detailed instructions in a work-related setting,
and could interact with co-workers and supervisors under
routine supervision (Tr. 34). The ALJ then concluded that
although the claimant could not return to her past relevant
work, she was nevertheless not disabled because there was
work that she could perform in the national economy, e.
g., final inspector, collator, semiconductor bonder, and
printed circuit board taper (Tr. 41-43).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
analyze her credibility. The Court agrees, and the decision
of the Commissioner must therefore be reversed and the case
remanded for further proceedings.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
depression and allied disorders (Tr. 32). The relevant
medical records reveal that Sue Rollins, a nurse practitioner
at Hope Community Services, Inc., regularly treated the
claimant for major depressive disorder from February 2008
through March 2012 (Tr. 243-76, 327-29, 351-59). Ms.
Rollins's treatment notes reflect that the claimant's
depression waxed and waned, but that she consistently
reported job-related depression between November 2010 and
March 2011 (Tr. 243, 249, 252, 255, 258, 275). From August
2011 through March 2012, the claimant also attended
counseling sessions ...