United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
PATRICIA D. BEALL, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Patricia D. Beall 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 is hereby REVERSED and
the case is REMANDED to the ALJ for further proceedings.
Security Law and Standard of Review
Disability 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 fifty-two years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 42, 162). She completed eighth
grade and has no past relevant work (Tr. 58, 185). The
claimant alleges that she has been unable to work since July
1, 2014, due to a nervous place in her arm, liver problems,
posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), and
anxiety (Tr. 162, 184).
July 27, 2015, the claimant applied for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 27, 162-67). Her
application was denied. ALJ James Bentley conducted an
administrative hearing and found that the claimant was not
disabled in a written opinion dated November 1, 2016 (Tr.
27-36). 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. §
of the Administrative Law Judge
ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential
evaluation. He found that the claimant had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), except she
was limited to simple tasks with routine supervision,
occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors on a
superficial work-basis, and no work-related contact with the
general public (Tr. 32). The ALJ then concluded that the
claimant was not disabled because there was work that she
could perform in the national economy, e. g.,
kitchen helper, hospital cleaner, and laundry worker (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly:
(i) analyze the opinion of treating physician Dr. Theresa
Farrow, and (ii) evaluate her subjective statements. The
Court agrees with the claimant's first contention, and
the decision of the Commissioner must therefore be reversed
and the case remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings.
found the claimant's bipolar I disorder, PTSD,
methamphetamine dependence in early remission, borderline
personality disorder, hepatitis C, and tobacco dependence
were severe impairments, but that her headaches were
nonsevere (Tr. 20-22). The medical evidence relevant to this
appeal reveals that the claimant presented to Dr. Farrow at
Carl Albert Community Mental Health Center
(“CACMHC”) on September 6, 2013, and reported
problems with depression and anxiety most of her life, but
worsening symptoms the previous two or three years as well as
increased anger (Tr. 301-03). Dr. Farrow diagnosed the
claimant with bipolar disorder, mixed, severe, with psychotic
features; ADHD, combined type; PTSD; social phobia;
amphetamine dependence in remission; and borderline
personality disorder (Tr. 302). The claimant next sought
mental health treatment on ...