United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
Charles B. Goodwin, United States District Judge.
Kelly Beard brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying Plaintiff's application for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Having reviewed
the administrative record (Doc. No. 10, hereinafter “R.
”), and the arguments and authorities submitted by the
parties, including the supplemental briefs submitted at the
Court's request, the Court finds that the decision of the
Commissioner should be reversed and the matter remanded for
further administrative proceedings.
alleges that the November 18, 2016 written decision of the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in the
analysis of and weight afforded the opinion of rheumatologist
Fahed Hamadeh, MD, as expressed in a Physical Residual
Functional Capacity Assessment (“PRFCA”). R.
17-19, 1446-51 (Ex. 29F). At the November 3, 2015
administrative hearing, the ALJ expressed concern about the
lack of documentation of Plaintiff's functional
limitations during the relevant period-from February 14,
2012, the alleged onset date, to December 31, 2013, the date
Plaintiff was last insured for disability benefits. R. 60-75.
Plaintiff's attorney agreed to recontact Plaintiff's
physicians and to request such opinions. R. 106-08. The
record demonstrates that on December 1, 2015, the PRFCA
completed and signed by Dr. Hamadeh was faxed to
Plaintiff's attorney, who in turn faxed the form to the
ALJ. R. 1446-51, 1452
2, 2016, the ALJ faxed a letter to Dr. Hamadeh acknowledging
receipt of the PRFCA but complaining that the form was not
dated. R. 340-53. The ALJ attached a Medical Source Statement
of Ability to Do Work-Related Activity form to his letter and
requested that Dr. Hamadeh complete the additional form,
limiting his opinions to the period from February 13, 2012,
through December 31, 2013. R. 340, 347-53. Dr. Hamadeh dated
and returned the PRFCA form he had previously filled out with
the date he received the ALJ's letter, R. 1452-58 (Ex.
30F), but declined the request to fill out the additional
form, R. 1467, 1474-79 (Ex. 31F).
unfavorable decision, the ALJ detailed these and the
subsequent efforts he and the state agency made to procure
the additional forms from Dr. Hamadeh. R. 17-19. The ALJ
concluded that Dr. Hamadeh's opinions “do not
relate to the period at issue herein, which is from
[Plaintiff's] alleged onset date of disability of
February 14, 2012, through the date her insured status
expired on December 31, 2013.” R. 31. The ALJ thus
determined that “the opinion of Dr. Hamadeh is entitled
to very little weight because he repeatedly declined to offer
any opinion concerning the relevant time period, which
expired on December 31, 2013.” R. 31-32.
Hamadeh's PRFCA does contain a date range, however. In
small type, on the first page of the PRFCA, it states:
“Time Period from 08/08/2013 to 10/15/2015.” R.
1446. These dates correspond with the date of Plaintiff's
first appointment with Dr. Hamadeh and the date of
Plaintiff's last appointment before Dr. Hamadeh submitted
the form to Plaintiff's attorney in December 2015. The
date range specified on the PRFCA overlaps with what the ALJ
found to be the relevant time period: February 14, 2012,
through December 31, 2013. R. 31.
initial briefing, the Court notified the parties of the fact
of the specified date range and noted that it appeared that
Dr. Hamadeh's opinions had been rejected based on an
erroneous reading of the record. The parties were permitted
to submit supplemental briefs on the issue, which they did.
Doc. Nos. 18, 21, 22.
party has disputed that the specified date range was in fact
printed on Dr. Hamadeh's PRFCA. Defendant argues,
however, that the date range may reasonably be read as a
recitation of the period Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Hamadeh
and not the period in which Dr. Hamadeh's opinions apply.
See Suppl. Br. in Support of Comm'r's
Decision (Doc. No. 21) at 2. The Court disagrees. The context
of the PRFCA-a form detailing a physician's opinions as
to a claimant's condition-indicates that the statement
“Time Period from 08/08/2013 to 10/15/2015” was
intended to mean that the opined conditions were present
“from 08/08/2013 to 10/15/2015.” R. 1446.
further contends that Dr. Hamadeh was not a treating
physician, there are other good reasons for disregarding his
opinions, and the weight of the evidence would lead to the
same result reached by the ALJ even if Dr. Hamadeh's
opinions were fully credited. See Suppl. Br. in
Support of Comm'r's Decision at 1-3. But all of these
arguments call for the Court to engage in the type of post
hoc reasoning prohibited of it. See Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1263 (10th Cir. 2005)
(“[T]he district court may not create post-hoc
rationalizations to explain the Commissioner's treatment
of evidence when that treatment is not apparent from the
Commissioner's decision itself.”); Zemp-Bacher
v. Astrue, 477 Fed.Appx. 492, 495 (10th Cir. 2012)
(“The court must rely on the conclusions drawn by the
ALJ . . . .”). Further, the Court should not
“engage in an impermissible reweighing of the
evidence.” Hackett v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168,
1173 (10th Cir. 2005).
the reason given by the ALJ for rejecting Dr. Hamadeh's
opinions is not supported by substantial evidence in the
record. See Doyal v. Barnhart,331 F.3d 758, 760
(10th Cir. 2003) (“Substantial evidence is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” (internal quotation
marks omitted)). The decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED
and the matter REMANDED ...