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Bickham v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 14, 2014

MIECAH BICKHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Social Security Commissioner, Defendant.

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 Miecah Bickham's ("Plaintiff") application for supplemental social security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33. Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

I. BACKGROUND

A. MEDICAL EVIDENCE

Plaintiff was born on April 30, 1972, and was 37 years old on the date of her alleged disability onset. (AR at 158.)[1] She received a high school education up to the ninth grade, but did not obtain a GED.[2] (AR at 299.) Plaintiff reported that she previously worked as a cook, bank teller, and career counselor. (AR at 34, 36.) With regard to her physiological ailments, Plaintiff complains that she suffers from diabetes, inflammation, asthma, head trauma, sleep apnea, obesity, and migraines. With respect to her psychological ailments, Plaintiff alleges that she suffers from an affective disorder, which Plaintiff identifies as depression, anxiety, and borderline intellectual functioning. (AR at 22.) In 1999, Plaintiff was attacked and sexually assaulted. She reports that she was hospitalized between one to two weeks due to a head injury and being assaulted and stabbed. Later, she was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and complains that this traumatic experience has inhibited her ability to work with men. (AR at 300, 303.) She testified that since her attack, she treats her psychological ailments by taking medication and seeing a therapist. (AR at 36.)

B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff previously applied for disability insurance benefits and/or supplemental social security income three times and was unsuccessful each time. Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits, alleging a disability onset date of October 22, 2009. After her initial application was denied, Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on February 8, 2012, before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), who issued an unfavorable decision on April 13, 2012. (AR at 19-28.)

In applying the five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920 to determine whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ determined that:

1. Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since "September 27, 2010, the application date"[3] [Step 1];
2. Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: an affective disorder, an anxiety-related disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning [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 the full range of medium work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c). Non-exertionally, she retains the abilities to engage in at least simple, repetitive tasks equating to unskilled work." [Step 4]; and
5. Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work, but can perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy [Step 5].

The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR at 1-3.) In so doing, the Appeals Council considered additional evidence not before the ALJ at the time of his decision, but determined that "information does not provide a basis for changing the [ALJ's] decision." (AR at 2.) On September 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed her appeal of the Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. # 1.) Plaintiff filed her opening brief on January 6, ...


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