United States District Court, D. Colorado
ALLEN H. LUCK, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN C. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DECISION
WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.
This is a social security benefits appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff Allen H. Luck ("Plaintiff") challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for supplemental security income benefits. The denial was partially affirmed by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") who ruled that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to October 1, 2010, but became disabled on that date and continues to be disabled. This appeal followed.
For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision is affirmed in its entirety.
Plaintiff was born on May 20, 1971 and was 22 years old on the original alleged disability onset date. (Admin. Record ("R.") (ECF No. 10) at 225.)
Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on August 8, 2007. (R. at 139.) The application was denied and, upon a request for a hearing, Plaintiff's claims were heard by ALJ Peggy S. Ball on April 28, 2009. (R. at 97.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled and denied his claim on October 20, 2009. (R. at 155.) The Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ with instructions to give further consideration to the examining source opinion of David Benson, Ph.D. (R. at 24.) The ALJ held a second hearing on June 1, 2011. (R. at 42.) Plaintiff and vocational expert Deborah Christensen testified at the hearing. (R. at 24.)
On August 9, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process. ( Id. ) At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 18, 2007. (R. at 26.) At step two, she found that Plaintiff suffered from "asthma; chronic bronchitis; shoulder impingement syndrome; thoracic paravertebral muscle spasm; obesity; shizoaffective disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder; [and] polysubstance abuse disorder, in reported remission." (R. at 27.) The ALJ did not find Plaintiff's migraine headaches or sleep apnea to be a severe impairment. ( Id. ) At step three the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments, while severe, did not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed in the social security regulations. ( Id. )
At step four, the ALJ found that for the period prior to October 1, 2010, the date Plaintiff became disabled, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "light" work as defined by the regulations, except that the work:
[M]ust not require overhead reaching with the left upper extremity, must not require more than occasional bending, squatting, crawling or kneeling, must not require concentrated exposure to dust, fumes or gases, must not require more than occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers or the general public, and must be able to be performed by a person who has moderate limitations in maintaining concentration, persistence and pace, in working in close proximity to others, and in maintaining social function.
(R. at 28) (emphasis added.) The ALJ stated that "[b]eginning in October, 2010, the objective evidence in the record reflects that [Plaintiff's] condition deteriorated, such that he has marked limitations in maintaining concentration, persistence and pace, in working in close proximity to others, and in maintaining social function." ( Id. (emphasis added).) The ALJ, therefore, created a different RFC for the time period beginning on October 1, 2010, adjusting the "moderate" limitations provision to "marked." (R. at 32.)
Given the limitations in these RFCs, at step four the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not been able to perform any past relevant work since September 18, 2007. (R. at 32.) At step five, the ALJ found that, prior to October 1, 2010, there was a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could have performed (R. at 33), but beginning on October 1, 2010, there was not a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (R. at 34.)
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("Act") prior to October 1, 2010, but became disabled on that date and continued to be disabled through the date of the ALJ's decision. ( Id. ) The Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1.) Thus, the ALJ's August 9, 2011 decision is the final administrative action for purposes of review.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court reviews the Commissioner'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. 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. Id. "It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084. 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 reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the Court may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the agency. Salazar v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 615, 621 (10th Cir. 2006). ...