United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
TRINA L. FLUAITT, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY E. WEST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Trina L. Fluaitt (the “Claimant”) requests
judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying Claimant's
application for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act. Claimant appeals the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) and asserts that the Commissioner
erred because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Claimant
was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, it is the
finding of this Court that the Commissioner's decision
should be and is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED for
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 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. . .” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). Social Security regulations
implement a five-step sequential process to evaluate a
disability claim. See 20 C.F.R. §
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is
limited to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was
supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the
correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v.
Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997) (citation
omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has
been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to
require “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)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor
substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias
v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799,
800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the
record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the
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 800-01.
was 51 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. She
has a limited education and worked in the past as a laundry
worker and a housekeeper. Claimant alleges an inability to
work beginning on July 24, 2015, due to limitations resulting
from back problems, high blood pressure, obesity, depression,
and anxiety attacks.
14, 2015, Claimant protectively filed for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II
(42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.) of the Social
Security Act. Claimant's application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. On December 12, 2016, the
Administrative Law Judge(“ALJ”) Lantz McClain
conducted a video hearing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Claimant
appeared in Poteau, Oklahoma. On February 2, 2017, the ALJ
entered an unfavorable decision. Claimant requested review by
the Appeals Council, and on January 9, 2018, it denied
review. As a result, the decision of the ALJ represents the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of further
appeal. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
of the Administrative Law Judge
made his decision at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. He determined that while Claimant suffered from
severe impairments, she did not meet a listing and retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform medium work, with limitations.
Alleged for Review
asserts the ALJ committed error by (1) failing to reach a
proper RFC determination (with several subparts to the
issue); and (2) failing to reach a proper step four
determination with respect to past relevant work.