United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
WALTER L. LUTON, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SHREDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
claimant Walter L. Luton 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 is REVERSED and the
case 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 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 forty-seven years old at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 157). He completed tenth grade
and has worked as a construction worker and automobile
service station mechanic (Tr. 33, 51). The claimant alleges
that he has been unable to work since January 1, 1994, due to
depression, anxiety, degenerative disc disease, neck
problems, and back problems (Tr. 174-75).
November 13, 2014, the claimant applied for supplemental
security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (Tr. 157-59).
His application was denied. ALJ Anne H. Pate held an
administrative hearing and determined that the claimant was
not disabled in a written opinion dated April 12, 2017 (Tr.
12-20). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ's
written opinion represents the Commissioner's final
decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R.
of the Administrative Law Judge
ALJ made her decision at step five of the sequential
evaluation. She found the claimant had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited
range of light work, i. e., he could lift and carry
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently,
sit/stand/walk six hours in an eight-hour workday, and
occasionally climb and stoop (Tr. 16). Due to
psychologically-based limitations, the ALJ also found the
claimant could perform simple tasks with routine supervision,
relate to supervisors and peers on a superficial basis, and
adapt to a work setting and some forewarned changes in a
usually stable work setting, but could not work with the
general public (Tr. 16). The ALJ then concluded that although
the claimant could not return to his past relevant work, he
was nevertheless not disabled because there was work he could
perform in the national economy, i. e., housekeeper
cleaner, domestic laundry worker, and carwash attendant (Tr.
claimant contends that the ALJ erred by: (i) failing to
account for his neck pain, headaches, and shoulder problems
in formulating the RFC; (ii) relying on vocational expert
(“VE”) testimony at step five that was
inconsistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”); and (iii) failing to properly evaluate
his subjective statements. 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 proceedings.
found the claimant had the severe impairments of
osteoarthritis of the cervical and lumbar spine, obesity,
major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder (Tr. 14). The
relevant medical evidence reveals that the claimant underwent
an MRI of his lumbar spine on October 26, 2012, which was
unremarkable (Tr. 355). Thereafter, physician assistant
Tommie Stanberry treated the claimant ...