United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
P. SHREDER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Perry Lee Carter 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 the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in
determining he was not disabled. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision should be REVERSED and
the case REMANDED 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 his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his 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 sixty-four years old at the time of the most
recent administrative hearing (Tr. 1672, 1850). He completed
the twelfth grade and has worked as a heavy equipment
operator and dump truck driver (Tr. 30, 209). The claimant
alleges that he has been unable to work since an amended
alleged onset date of May 7, 2013, due to diabetes, heart
problems, and a bad back (Tr. 1675, 1881).
February 7, 2014, the claimant applied for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. His application was denied.
ALJ Luke Liter held an administrative hearing and determined
that the claimant was not disabled in a written opinion dated
December 16, 2015 (Tr. 1712-1724). However, the Appeals
Council reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded for
further analysis on June 23, 2017 (Tr. 1731-1732). On remand,
ALJ Liter held a second administrative hearing and again
determined that the claimant was not disabled in a written
opinion dated February 16, 2018 (Tr. 1627-1642). The Appeals
Council then 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 his decision at step two of the sequential evaluation.
He found that from the claimant's amended onset date of
May 7, 2013 to his date last insured of June 30, 2014, the
claimant had the medically determinable impairments of
obesity, diabetes mellitus, paroxysmal supraventricular
tachycardia (PSVT), and hypertension (Tr. 1630). Finding that
none of these impairments significantly limited the
claimant's ability to perform basic work-related
activities for 12 consecutive months, he found that the
claimant did not have a severe impairment then concluded that
the claimant was therefore not disabled (Tr. 1630-1642).
claimant challenges the ALJ's step two findings,
particularly alleging that the ALJ ignored a treating
physician assessment in failing to find that the claimant had
no severe impairment. The undersigned Magistrate Judge agrees
with the claimant's contention, and the decision should
be reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
relevant medical evidence reflects that the claimant
presented to the hospital twice in May 2013, with complaints
of palpitations. On May 7, 2013, palpitations and PSVT were
resolved, and attributed to the use of over-the-counter
supplements (Tr. 2010-2011, 2015). An echocardiogram on May
7, 2013 revealed normal left ventricular size with normal
global left ventricular systolic function, as well as left
atrial enlargement and Grade 1 diastolic dysfunction (Tr.
2012). Dr. Robert Parris interpreted this as essentially
excluding any significant structural heart disease but noting
that he may be a candidate for antiarrythmic therapy and a
possible ablation (Tr. 2015). On May 13, 2013, the claimant
again reported palpitations and was assessed with PSVT and
discharged from the ER once he was stable (Tr. 2004). An EKG