United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
DANIEL H. WILLIS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Daniel H. Willis requests judicial review of a
denial of benefits by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He
appeals the Commissioner's decision and asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
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 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 July 7, 1986, and was twenty-eight years
old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 43). He
completed high school while attending special education
classes, and has worked as a cashier II and deli worker (Tr.
43, 61). The claimant alleges that he has been unable to work
since October 1, 2012, due to overall pain in his body; pain
in his ankle, leg, and back; a learning disability;
depression; a heart condition; and high blood pressure (Tr.
January 28, 2013, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and he applied for
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85, on
February 20, 2013 (Tr. 208-17). His applications were denied.
ALJ Doug Gabbard, II conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated March 30, 2015 (Tr. 19-33). 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, 416.1481.
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 light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b) except he
could stand/walk for four hours daily; sit no more than six
hours daily; and occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl (Tr. 24). The ALJ found the claimant must
also be allowed to alternately sit and stand every thirty
minutes or so throughout the workday for the purpose of
changing positions, but without leaving the workstation (Tr.
24). Due to psychologically based limitations, the ALJ found
the claimant was limited to unskilled work (work which needs
little or no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned
on the job in a short period of time) with occasional
understanding, remembering, and completing detailed
instructions (Tr. 24). The ALJ further found the
claimant's supervision must be simple, direct, and
concrete, and his interpersonal contact with supervisors and
co-workers must be incidental to the work performed, e.
g., assembly work, but due to problems with
concentration, persistence, and pace, he must not be required
to work at fast-paced production line speeds, and must only
occasionally adapt to workplace changes (Tr. 24). The ALJ
then concluded that although the claimant could not return to
his past relevant work, he was nevertheless not disabled
because there was work that he could perform in the national
economy, e. g., small product assembler and
electrical accessory assembler (Tr. 32-33).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
resolve a conflict between the vocational expert's
(“VE”) testimony and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”); (ii) failing to make
sufficient findings as to whether work existed in significant
numbers; (iii) failing to account for his severe shoulder
impairment in formulating the RFC; (iv) including limitations
in the RFC that precluded light work; (v) failing to
determine he met Listing 12.05C; and (vi) failing to properly
assess his credibility. The Court finds that the ALJ did err
in determining the claimant's RFC, and the decision of
the Commissioner must therefore be reversed.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, major joint
dysfunction, and borderline intellectual functioning, but
that his obesity, tachycardia, hypertension, and dyslipidemia
were non-severe (Tr. 22). The relevant medical evidence
reveals that the claimant presented to Pushmataha County
Hospital on September 9, 2010, and reported pain in his right
ankle after falling off a curb (Tr. 374-81). An x-ray taken
that day revealed a small ...