Candy v. Social Security Administration
OPINION AND ORDER by Magistrate Judge Kimberly E. West reversing and remanding the decision of the ALJ(sjr, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
JAMES M. CANDY,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting
Commissioner of Social
Case No. CIV-15-494-KEW
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff James M. Candy (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.
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
Commissioner’s decision should be and is REVERSED and the case is
REMANDED for further proceedings.
Social 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
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. . .”
Social Security regulations implement a five-step
sequential process to evaluate a disability claim.
See, 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.1
Judicial review of the Commissioner’s determination is limited
in scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
This Court’s review is limited to
first, whether the decision was supported by
Step one requires the claimant to establish that he is not
engaged in substantial gainful activity, as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1510, 416.910. Step two requires that the claimant establish that
he has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limit his ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1521, 416.921. If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity (step one) or if the claimant’s impairment is not medically
severe (step two), disability benefits are denied. At step three, the
claimant’s impairment is compared with certain impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. A claimant suffering from a listed
impairment or impairments “medically equivalent” to a listed impairment
is determined to be disabled without further inquiry.
If not, the
evaluation proceeds to step four, where claimant must establish that he
does not retain the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform his
past relevant work.
If the claimant’s step four burden is met, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish at step five that work
exists in significant numbers in the national economy which the claimant
– taking into account his age, education, work experience, and RFC – can
perform. Disability benefits are denied if the Commissioner shows that
the impairment which precluded the performance of past relevant work does
not preclude alternative work. See generally, Williams v. Bowen, 844
F.2d 748, 750-51 (10th Cir. 1988).
standards were applied.
Hawkins v. Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164
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
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor substitute
its discretion for that of the agency.
Casias v. Secretary of
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.”
Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951); see also, Casias, 933 F.2d
Claimant was born on January 16, 1968 and was 46 years old at
the time of the ALJ’s decision.
through the ninth grade.
Claimant completed his education
He also received training in vehicle air
Claimant has no past relevant work.
alleges an inability to work beginning August 5, 2008 due to
limitations resulting from diabetic neuropathy, gum disease, and
On June 29, 2010, Claimant protectively filed for supplemental
security income pursuant to Title XVI (42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq.)
of the Social Security Act.
Claimant’s application was denied
unfavorable decision on July 13, 2012.
On September 14, 2013, the
Appeals Council reversed the ALJ’s decision and remanded the case
for further proceedings.
On remand, ALJ Lantz McClain conducted a second administrative
hearing by video on January 3, 2014 with Claimant appearing in
Muskogee, Oklahoma and the ALJ presiding from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
unfavorable decision was again entered on March 21, 2014.
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision on October 28,
As a result, the decision of the ALJ represents the
Commissioner’s final decision for purposes of further appeal.
C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
Decision of the Administrative Law Judge
The ALJ made his decision at step five of the sequential
evaluation. He determined that while Claimant suffered from severe
impairments, he did not meet a listing and retained the residual
Errors Alleged for Review
Claimant asserts the ALJ committed error in (1) ignoring
probative medical evidence related to Claimant’s hand and wrist
impairments; and (2) reaching an erroneous RFC which was not based
on substantial evidence.
Evaluation of the Medical Evidence
In his decision, the ALJ found Claimant suffered from the
hypertension, obesity, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.
The ALJ determined Claimant retained the RFC to perform
In so doing, the ALJ found that Claimant could
lift/carry 10 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand
or walk for six hours for at least two hours, and sit at least six
hours in an eight hour workday.
However, Claimant must avoid
hazards such as heights and open machinery and could no more than
frequently use his hands for such repetitive tasks as keyboarding.
After consulting with a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded
that Claimant could perform the representative jobs of circuit
board assembler, order clerk, and machine operator, all of which
the ALJ determined existed in sufficient numbers in both the
regional and national economies.
As a result, the ALJ
determined Claimant was not under a disability since June 29, 2010,
the date the application was filed.
Claimant contends the ALJ selectively discussed evidence in
the record which only supported a finding of non-disability while
ignoring other evidence.
On December 8, 2010, Dr. Harold Goldman
noted that Claimant had symptoms involving numbness of the fourth
disclosed the presence of a sensory ulna neuropathy involving both
ulna nerves at the wrist which would indicate involvement of the
canal der guilonne with entrapment of both ulna nerves.
Goldman concluded that this must be related to Claimant’s diabetes
and previous occupation as a mechanic.
The ALJ only
discussed electromyography and nerve conduction study which he
found supported the credibility of Claimant’s statements that he
was unable to hold a glass or squeeze a bottle hard enough to
squeeze out its contents.
were not discussed.
The remainder of Dr. Goldman’s findings
On December 17, 2012, Dr. Douglas Nolan also found Claimant
had markedly decreased gross sensory function.
Nolan also noted Claimant had swelling in his left wrist involving
supination in his right wrist and decreased flexion and extension
range of motion in his left wrist.
Dr. Nolan noted uncontrolled
diabetic neuropathy in Claimant’s hands. (Tr. 660, 663, 665, 672).
The ALJ is not required to discuss every piece of evidence.
But it is clear that, “in addition to discussing the evidence
uncontroverted evidence he chooses not to rely upon, as well as
significantly probative evidence he rejects.”
Clifton v. Chater,
79 F.3d 1007, 1009-1010 (10th Cir. 1996)(citations omitted).
limitations in his ability to use his hands beyond the limitations
set forth in the RFC of only restricting repetitive use.
remand, the ALJ shall consider the totality of the evidence
limitations upon his ability to engage in basic work activity that
Claimant also contends the ALJ failed to include adequate
restrictions in the RFC for his wrist and hand impairments.
problems beyond that set forth in the ALJ’s RFC restrictions,
including dropping things with his hands due to the neuropathy.
The ALJ’s findings were primarily associated with
Claimant’s carpal tunnel syndrome rather than the effects of his
diabetic neuropathy upon his ability to manipulate objects.
“[R]esidual functional capacity consists of those activities
that a claimant can still perform on a regular and continuing basis
despite his or her physical limitations.”
White v. Barnhart, 287
F.3d 903, 906 n. 2 (10th Cir. 2001).
A residual functional
capacity assessment “must include a narrative discussion describing
how the evidence supports each conclusion, citing specific medical
facts ... and nonmedical evidence.” Soc. Sec. R. 96–8p.
must also discuss the individual's ability to perform sustained
work activities in an ordinary work setting on a “regular and
continuing basis” and describe the maximum amount of work related
activity the individual can perform based on evidence contained in
the case record. Id.
The ALJ must “explain how any material
inconsistencies or ambiguities in the evidence in the case record
were considered and resolved.”
In regard to Claimant’s hand and wrist impairments, the ALJ
failed to adequately consider the evidence surrounding the effects
of Claimant’s diabetic neuropathy.
On remand, he shall consider
the medical evidence on this impairment and the effect it has upon
Claimant’s ability to engage in sedentary work.
substantial evidence and the correct legal standards were not
Commissioner of Social Security Administration should be and is
REVERSED and the matter REMANDED for further proceedings consistent
with this Opinion and Order.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 30th day of March, 2017.
KIMBERLY E. WEST
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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