United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Debra Gail Schrimsher 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 set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision 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. 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-six years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 137). She completed up to one
year of college, and has worked as a contract technician,
receptionist, and billing and collection representative (Tr.
121, 324). The claimant alleges that she has been unable to
work since April 11, 2014, due to fibromyalgia, bipolar
disorder, borderline personality disorder, degenerative disc
disorder, degenerative joint disorder, bone spurs, arthritis,
major depression, and possible seizures (Tr. 323).
1, 2014, 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 held an administrative hearing and determined
that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated
May 12, 2016 (Tr. 108-123). 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. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made her decision at step five of the sequential evaluation.
She found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform less than the full range of light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), i.
e., she could lift/carry twenty pounds occasionally and
ten pounds frequently and sit/stand/walk six hours in an
eight-hour workday. Additionally, she determined that the
claimant was unlimited in the ability to climb ramps or
stairs, stoop, crouch, crawl, and kneel, but that she could
only frequently balance, and had limited right handling for
gross manipulations only, with the unlimited ability to
finger and feel. Further, she determined the claimant needed
to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as moving
machinery and unprotected heights. Finally, she found that
the claimant could understand, remember, and carry out simple
instructions; relate to coworkers and supervisors
superficially; and adapt to a work environment; but that she
could not tolerate active involvement with the general public
(Tr. 115). The ALJ thus concluded that although the claimant
could not return to her past relevant work, she was
nevertheless not disabled because there was work she could
perform, i. e., assembler, cleaner/polisher, and
bakery worker (Tr. 122).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly evaluate a treating physician opinion, and (ii)
failing to properly account for her severe impairments,
including her mental impairments, in formulating the RFC. The
undersigned Magistrate Judge agrees with the claimant's
second contention related to assessing the claimant's
RFC, and the decision of the Commissioner should therefore be
reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.
found that the claimant had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, status post ankle reconstruction,
right gamekeeper's thumb status post surgeries,
fibromyalgia, and bipolar disorder, as well as the nonsevere
impairments of possible absence seizure disorder, history of
anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, arthritis, status
post left elbow surgery, borderline personality disorder, and
history of alcohol abuse (Tr. 111-112). The relevant medical
evidence related to the claimant's mental impairments
reveals that she had a number of inpatient mental health
admissions. She was admitted to Vista Health in Fort Smith,
Arkansas from February 27, 2012 through March 2, 2012 with
severe depression and suicidal thinking. On admission, her
Global Assessment of Functioning ...