United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Homer Lee Reece 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision of the Commissioner should be REVERSED
and the case 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 forty years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 27). He completed tenth grade,
and has worked as a construction cleaner, general labor,
short order cook, parts stocker, and window assembler (Tr.
20, 240). The claimant alleges he has been unable to work
since December 16, 2013, due to his right hand missing
fingers, a low IQ, and mental health problems (Tr. 239).
December 16, 2013 the claimant applied for supplemental
security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. His application
was denied. ALJ Deborah L. Rose conducted an administrative
hearing and determined that the claimant was not disabled in
a written opinion dated February 25, 2016 (Tr. 13-22). The
Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's opinion
represents the Commissioner's final decision for purposes
of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. She found that the claimant had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform a reduced range of
medium work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c),
i. e., he could lift/carry twenty-five pounds
frequently and fifty pounds occasionally, stand/walk six
hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit six hours in an
eight-hour workday, and that he could not operate hand
controls with the right upper extremity; and could only
occasionally handle, finger, and feel with the right hand due
to the loss of his right ring and pinky fingers and the fixed
position of the middle finger. Additionally, she determined
that the claimant could understand, remember, and carry out
simple instructions, make simple work-related decisions, and
have superficial work-related interaction with coworkers and
supervisors, as well as occasional interaction with the
public (Tr. 17). The ALJ thus concluded that the claimant
could return to her past relevant work as a general laborer
or parts stocker, and alternatively, that there was other
work he could perform, i. e., janitorial, warehouse
worker, office cleaning, and production inspector (Tr.
20-21). The ALJ thus concluded that the claimant was not
disabled (Tr. 22).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
consider the entire record and all his impairments, including
his hypertension, obesity, and mental impairments, and (ii)
further failed to consider the combined effect of his
impairments, as well as his moderate impairment related to
concentration, persistence, or pace. The undersigned
Magistrate Judge agrees that the ALJ failed to account for
all the claimant's impairments, and the decision of the
Commissioner should therefore be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
partial loss of right hand due to remote amputation, bipolar
disorder, and history of substance abuse in remission since
June 2014, as well as the nonsevere impairments of
hypertension, obesity, and hepatitis C (Tr. 15). As relevant
to this appeal, the medical evidence reflects that the
claimant's blood pressure ranged as follow: 172/112 on
February 21, 2014; 132/92 on July 21, 2014; 133/88 on October
21, 2014; 136/100 on February 6, 2015; 179/108 on April 30,
2015; 143/92 on May 15, 2015; and 144/98 on September 24,
2015 (Tr. 372, 412, 420, 479, 482, 507, 537). Treatment notes
regarding the claimant's hypertension on September 24,
2015 state that the claimant's hypertension started in
2013 and was “currently getting worse, ” noting
the claimant had risk factors including depression, family
history, hypertension, gout or CAD, obesity, and smoking (Tr.
534). During this same time frame, the claimant's weight
ranged from 304 to 336 pounds (Tr. 420, 479, 482, 507, 537).
On a May 15, 2015 visit with Dr. Anna Miller, she noted that
she discussed the claimant's obesity and the option ...