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Luyk v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 30, 2014

MARY L. LUYK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT AND AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.

This social security benefits appeal, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), is before the Court on a Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) ("Motion"). (ECF No. 24.) Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), assigns legal error to the Court's Order reversing her final decision denying the application of Plaintiff Mary L. Luyk ("Plaintiff") for disability and social security benefits. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted, the Final Judgment in favor of Plaintiff is vacated, and the Commissioner's denial of benefits is affirmed.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mary Lynn Luyk ("Plaintiff"), a widow of a deceased insured worker, was born on February 28, 1956, and was 51 years old on the alleged disability onset date. (Admin. Record ("R.") (ECF No. 12) at 21.) Plaintiff has at least a high school education and has past relevant work experience as a customer service representative for telephone and cable, an auto detailer, and a hand packager. (R. at 21.)

Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and for supplemental security income benefits on June 18, 2008, alleging that she had been disabled since March 22, 2007 due to several impairments, including problems related to two hernia repair surgeries, depression, anxiety, and alcohol-related seizures. (R. at 17.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied on August 28, 2008. (R. at 13.)

After requesting a hearing, Plaintiff's claims were heard by Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") James A. Wendland on June 3, 2010. (R. at 13.) Plaintiff and vocational expert Aimee Spinelli testified at the administrative hearing. ( Id. ) Medical evidence and opinions were provided by, among others, state consulting psychologist Frederick Leidal, Psy.D., and nurse Cameron Garrett, R.N. (R. at 388-93, 401-24.)

On December 3, 2010, the ALJ issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process.[1] At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 22, 2007, the alleged onset date. (R. at 17.) At step two, he found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of status-post two hernia repair surgeries, depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse with withdrawal seizures. ( Id. ) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the impairments or combination of impairments listed in the social security regulations. ( Id. )

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), finding that she had the RFC to perform "sedentary" work as defined by the regulations, but that she should not be required to stoop, crouch or climb ramps and stairs more than occasionally, should never be required to crawl, balance or climb ladders, ropes, and scaffold. (R. at 18.) With regard to Plaintiff's mental limitations, the ALJ found that she should not be required to understand, remember, and carry out more than detailed instructions. ( Id. ) Given this RFC, at step four the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform any of her past relevant work. (R. at 21.) At step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform with her limitations. ( Id. ) Specifically, based on the vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could work as a receptionist or credit clerk. (R. at 21-22.) Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act and therefore was not entitled to benefits. (R. at 22.)

The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 18, 2012. (R. at 5.) Thus, the ALJ's December 3, 2010 decision is the final administrative action for purposes of review.

Plaintiff appealed the Commissioner's decision to this Court on October 2, 2012. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's Opening Brief was filed on March 22, 2013 (ECF No. 17), and the Commissioner's Response Brief was filed on April 22, 2013 (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff filed no Reply Brief. On October 16, 2013, the Court issued an Order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding the case to the Commissioner for rehearing before the ALJ ("Reversal Order"). (ECF No. 22.) Final Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff and against the Commissioner on October 17, 2013. (ECF No. 23.)

On November 14, 2013, the Commissioner filed the instant Motion. (ECF No. 24.) Although the Commissioner noted that Plaintiff's counsel indicated in conferral that Plaintiff opposed the Motion ( id. at 9), Plaintiff filed no response.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment

The Commissioner moves to amend the Final Judgment, contending that the Court's reasoning in the Reversal Order ...


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