United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING ALJ'S DECISION DENYING SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on review of the Commissioner's decision to deny Plaintiff Debra A. Glenn's ("Plaintiff") application for social security disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33. Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
A. MEDICAL EVIDENCE
Plaintiff was born on January 1, 1972, and was 37 years old on the date of her alleged disability onset. (AR at 22, 36.) She received a high school education up to the tenth grade, and obtained a GED. (AR at 37.) Plaintiff reported that she previously worked as a housekeeper, cashier, and store manager. (AR at 38-39.) With regard to her physiological ailments, Plaintiff's complains that she suffers from back and neck pain, a bulging disc in her back, back spasms, numbness in her right leg, carpal tunnel syndrome, and headaches. (AR at 41-42, 167.) In 2005, she was diagnosed with osteoblastoma and underwent surgery to remove the tumor and to fuse her spine. Plaintiff has not had a recurrence of the cancer. (AR at 368-75.) Plaintiff testified that she is awaiting surgery on a bulging disk and is prescribed medications to manage her pain. (AR at 42.) Plaintiff was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She takes antidepressants with no side effects. (AR at 42-43, 49, 213.) Plaintiff testified that for the past year, she has smoked a pack of cigarettes every four days. Prior to that, she smoked two packs of cigarettes per day. (AR at 43.)
B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits, alleging a disability onset date of September 1, 2009. After her initial application was denied, Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on August 24, 2011, before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), who issued an unfavorable decision on September 13, 2011. (AR at 22-31.)
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2011. In applying the five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920 to determine whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ determined that:
1. Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of June 30, 2011 [Step 1];
2. Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: history of osteoblastoma in 2005, without recurrence and a history of spinal fusion at the T11-L2 level with residual pain [Step 2];
3. Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 [Step 3];
4. Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant requires a sit/stand option. The claimant can crouch, kneel, and crawl frequently. She can occasionally climb stairs, balance, and stoop, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant is to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and unprotected heights." [Step 4]; and
5. Plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a cashier, telephone order clerk, retail manager, and a returns clerk [Step 5].
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR at 1-3.) On July 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed her appeal of the Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. # 1.) Plaintiff filed her opening brief on November, 20, 2013, the Commissioner responded on December 6, 2013, and Plaintiff replied on January 14, 2014. (Doc. ## 10, 11, 14.)
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports the factual findings and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009). "Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Id. (quoting Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007)). "Evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record." Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261-62 (10th Cir. 2005). In so ...