United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Michael Reed, o/b/o Tammy Ann Reed, deceased,
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 that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in determining that the claimant
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
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 fifty-one years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 149). She completed two years of
college, and had worked as a production clerk, billing clerk,
administrative clerk, accounting clerk, secretary, and lawn
mower (Tr. 27, 172, 229). The claimant alleged that she had
been unable to work since an alleged onset date of March 20,
2014, due to residual effects from her July 2012 stroke,
weakness and numbness on the left side, diabetes, hip pain,
hand problems, and fibromyalgia (Tr. 17, 171-172).
18, 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 Luke
Liter conducted an administrative hearing and determined that
the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated
December 27, 2016 (Tr. 15-28). 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 his decision at step four of the sequential evaluation.
He found that the claimant had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to lift/carry/push/pull twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently, sit for six hours in
an eight-hour workday, and stand/walk for one hour each in an
eight-hour workday, such that she could sit for two hours at
one time, stand for one hour at one time, and walk for one
hour at one time. He further found that she could frequently
use the bilateral upper extremities for reaching in all
directions (excluding overhead), handling, fingering, and
feeling; occasionally use her bilateral upper extremities for
reaching overhead and pushing/pulling; frequently use the
bilateral lower extremities for operating foot controls;
occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop kneel,
crouch, crawl; should avoid climbing ladders/ropes/scaffolds
and stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling.
Additionally, he found the claimant could not tolerate any
exposure to unprotected heights, extreme heat, or vibrations;
but she could tolerate occasional exposure to moving
mechanical parts, operating a motor vehicle, humidity and
wetness, and dust, odors, fumes, and pulmonary irritants.
Finally, he stated that she could tolerate moderate office
noise (Tr. 20). The ALJ then concluded that the claimant
could return to her past work as an accounting clerk (Tr.
Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred by finding the claimant
could perform the manipulative demands, including prolonged
fingering, of her past relevant work. As part of this
argument, he asserts that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate
a treating physician opinion, and other opinion evidence in
the record. The undersigned Magistrate Judge agrees with this
contention, and the Commissioner's decision should
therefore be reversed.
determined that the claimant had the severe impairments of
fibromyalgia, status post very mild stroke, obesity, and
diabetes mellitus, as well as the nonsevere impairment of
depression (Tr. 17). Relevant medical records from West
Washington County Clinic in Lincoln, Arkansas reflect that in
July 2012 the claimant experienced an acute right thalamic
infarct, i. e., a stroke (Tr. 239). Following the
stroke, she had musculoskeletal symptoms, fibromyalgia, and
body pain, including persistent hand pain (Tr. 254-255, 263,
266). The hand pain was described as progressing up the
elbows bilaterally and causing deep pain (Tr. 263). On August
15, 2013, the hand pain was assessed as significant,
disabling, and interfering with all daily functions, even
holding a steering wheel for a short time (Tr. 267, 271). She
had previously had mild carpal tunnel before the stroke, and
the stroke seemed to have exacerbated the pain (Tr. 267). On
February 9, 2015, treatment notes reiterate that the
claimant's hands were still so stiff ...