United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Jutanna Dawn Bowden 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 is 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 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 thirty-three years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 160). She has a tenth grade
education and no past relevant work (Tr. 48, 221). The
claimant alleges that she has been unable to work since an
amended onset date of June 23, 2015, due to mental illness
and seizures (Tr. 37, 220).
23, 2015, the claimant applied for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 10, 160-65). Her
application was denied. ALJ James Bentley conducted an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated February 21, 2017
(Tr. 10-22). The Appeals Council denied review, so the
ALJ's written opinion represents the Commissioners'
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 medium work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), except she could
understand, remember, and sustain concentration to carry out
simple, repetitive tasks with routine supervision; have
occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors, but no
work-related contact with the general public; adapt to a
routine work setting; and needed to avoid unprotected heights
and dangerous moving machinery (Tr. 15). The ALJ then
concluded that the claimant was not disabled because there
was work she could perform in the national economy, i.
e., laundry worker and inspector/packer (Tr. 20-21).
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
consider the mental health evidence prior to her alleged
onset date. She asserts that such failure caused the ALJ to
err when he discounted her subjective statements and when he
formed the RFC. The Court agrees that the ALJ erred in
formulating the RFC, and the decision of the Commissioner
must be reversed and the case remanded to the ALJ for further
found the claimant had the severe impairments of
schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality traits,
methamphetamine abuse in remission, seizure disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), and
hepatitis C, and the nonsevere impairment of headaches (Tr.
13). The relevant medical evidence prior to the
claimant's alleged onset date reveals that she received
inpatient mental health treatment at Griffin Memorial
Hospital in November 2014 due to suicidal ideation and
impulses to self-harm (Tr. 315-18). The claimant was
stabilized on medication and discharged with diagnoses of
schizoaffective disorder, amphetamine dependence, and
cannabis abuse (Tr. 316-18). Thereafter, the claimant
attended a follow-up appointment with Dr. William Mings at
Carl Albert Community Mental Health Center
(“CACMHC”) on December 17, 2014, and reported
that her mood continued to be unstable and that she had been
out of her medications for two weeks (Tr. 405-06). Dr. Mings
noted the claimant's mood and affect were depressed,
anxious, and irritable (Tr. 405). The claimant did not attend
further follow-up appointments at CACMHC, and was discharged
on July 9, 2015, due to noncompliance (Tr. ...