United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
TERESA C. GREENLEE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Teresa C. Greenlee 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 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 July 30, 1963, and was fifty-two years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 37). She
has a high school equivalent education, and has worked as a
convenience store clerk/cashier II, appliance assembler, and
home attendant (Tr. 37, 51). The claimant alleges she has
been unable to work since an amended onset date of April 1,
2014, due to collapsed foot bones, bad left knee,
degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, high blood pressure,
and high cholesterol (Tr. 40, 220).
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 June 5, 2014 (Tr. 166-79). Her applications were
denied. ALJ Edward M. Starr conducted an administrative
hearing and found that the claimant was not disabled in a
written opinion dated October 2, 2015 (Tr. 23-29). 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. §§
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the ability to perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) with frequent climbing, balancing, crawling,
kneeling, stooping, and crouching (Tr. 26). The ALJ then
concluded that the claimant was not disabled because she
could return to her past relevant work as a convenience store
clerk/cashier II (Tr. 29).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to: (i)
properly develop the record as to her back impairment, (ii)
support his step-two findings and RFC with substantial
evidence in light of contradictory evidence related to her
foot impairment, and (iii) assess her credibility. The Court
agrees that the ALJ failed to properly assess the
claimant's back impairment at step four.
found the claimant had the severe impairments of essential
hypertension, degenerative disc disease, and obesity, but
that her foot pain status post-surgery did not meet the