United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Megan Collins 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 she was not disabled. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision should 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. 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 the 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-seven years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 46). She completed twelfth grade,
and has worked as a medical assistant, personal care aid, car
hop, and retail sales clerk (Tr. 21, 266). The claimant
alleges inability to work since April 1, 2015, due to bipolar
disorder, borderline personality disorder, and diabetes (Tr.
April 17, 2015, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, and for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Her applications were denied.
ALJ B.D. Crutchfield conducted an administrative hearing and
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated June 13, 2017 (Tr. 12-23). The Appeals Council
denied review, so 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 a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but that she had nonexertional limitations
as follows. For her diabetes, she was to avoid unprotected
heights, moving machinery, and other hazards. Additionally,
the ALJ determined that the claimant could perform simple
tasks with routine supervision, relate to supervisors and
peers on a limited (occasional) work basis, and adapt to a
work situation, but that she could not relate to the general
public (Tr. 16). Finally, she found that the claimant should
have no accessibility to medications that are not prescribed
to her (Tr. 16). The ALJ concluded that although the claimant
could not return to her past relevant work, she was
nevertheless not disabled because she there was work she
could perform in the economy, e. g., janitor,
laundry worker, and production assembler (Tr. 21-23).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
properly account for her substance abuse, and (ii) failing to
properly assess her credibility. As to the first contention,
the claimant further contends that the ALJ failed to properly
consider her impairments in light of the Listings and failed
to properly account for all her impairments, specifically her
mental impairments and their contributions to noncompliance.
Because the ALJ does appear to have ignored probative
evidence regarding the claimant's impairments, the
decision of the Commissioner should be reversed.
determined at step two that the claimant had the severe
impairments of affective disorders and substance addiction
disorders in partial remission (Tr. 15). The ALJ also found
that the claimant's obesity was nonsevere, and listed
other impairments alleged by the claimant (bipolar disorder,
borderline personality disorder, diabetes, anxiety, panic
attacks, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder)
without commentary as to severity or any further analysis
(Tr. 15). The relevant medical evidence demonstrates that the
claimant has a long and repeated history of inpatient mental
health treatment for suicidal ideation and depression,
sometimes related to substance abuse and sometimes not.
Counsel has attached as an exhibit to the Opening Brief a
“Suicide Timeline, ” which indicates the claimant
underwent a total of 137 days of inpatient treatment between
2013 and 2017, including two inpatient admissions in 2013,
three inpatient admissions in 2014, six inpatient admissions
in 2015 (including one admission for twenty-four days), seven
inpatient admissions in 2016, and two inpatient admissions by
April 2017. See Docket No. 22, Ex. 1 &
Administrative Record. An August 2013 discharge diagnosis
assessed the claimant with bipolar disorder, generalized
anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and
insomnia (Tr. 360). Her bipolar disorder diagnosis was
repeated throughout ...