United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
LINDSEY G. BLANKENSHIP, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Lindsey G. Blankenship 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 that she was not disabled. As discussed below,
the undersigned Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the
Commissioner's decision be 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. Sec'y of Health
& Human Svcs., 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 thirty-six years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 37). She completed four or more
years of college, and has worked as a department store clerk,
security guard, and security system monitor (Tr. 22, 264).
The claimant alleges that she has been unable to work since
January 11, 2016, due to right hip injury, ankle instability,
hearing loss, and depression (Tr. 263).
February 26, 2016, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Her application was denied.
ALJ B.D. Crutchfield conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated April 11, 2017 (Tr. 15-23). The Appeals Council
denied review, so the ALJ's 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 her decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
She found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform the full range of light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). The ALJ thus
concluded that the claimant could return to her past work as
a department store clerk, security guard, and security system
monitor (Tr. 22).
claimant alleges that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly evaluate the medical opinions in the record,
specifically with regard to the claimant's VA disability
rating and a treating physician opinion, and (ii) failing to
consider all the claimant's impairments throughout the
sequential evaluation. The undersigned Magistrate Judge
agrees that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the evidence
in the record, and the Commissioner's decision should
therefore be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairment of cam
type femoral acetabular type injury with labral tear to the
right hip, as well as the nonsevere impairments of affective
disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorder,
posttraumatic stress disorder, and depression (Tr. 17-18).
Relevant medical records reflect that on March 15, 2016, Dr.
Judy Marks-Snelling completed a Hip and Thigh Conditions
Disability Benefits Questionnaire (“DBQ”)
indicating that the claimant experienced flare-ups of hip
pain when carrying weight of over fifteen to twenty pounds,
and that she could not fully flex or pivot on the right leg
at the hip ...