United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Victrina Hall 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
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 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 twenty-five years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 31). She completed the eleventh
grade, and has no past relevant work (Tr. 20, 188). The
claimant alleges that she has been unable to work since March
1, 2014, due to ruptured globe in the left eye (no left eye),
as well as 60% vision loss in the right eye (Tr. 187).
April 7, 2014, the claimant applied for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her application was denied.
ALJ John W. Belcher conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated March 15, 2016 (Tr. 14-21). The Appeals Council
denied review; thus, the ALJ's written opinion is the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this
appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 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 a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but that she could not climb ladders,
ropes, and scaffolding due to visual impairment; would need
to avoid hazardous or fast machinery, unprotected heights,
and driving; would be unable to perform tasks involving
stereo vision, depth perception, and peripheral vision (Tr.
16-17). The ALJ thus concluded that although the claimant had
no past relevant work to return to, she was nevertheless not
disabled because there was work she could perform, e.
g., bakery racker, agricultural produce sorter, and
office helper (Tr. 20).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly assess whether her impairments meet the requirements
of Appendix 1, Part 404, Subpart P (“the
Listings”), (ii) failing to properly assess her RFC by
accounting for all her impairments, and (iii) improperly
determining that there was work she could perform. The
undersigned Magistrate Judge agrees with the claimant's
first contention, and recommends that the case be reversed.
found the claimant's left eye blindness and right eye
reduction in visual efficiency were severe impairments (Tr.
16). The relevant medical records reveal that the claimant
suffered injuries to her face as a result of domestic
violence on March 1, 2014 (Tr. 274). The injuries included a
left globe rupture requiring enucleation, as well as right
temporal hemianopsia (Tr. 297). ...