United States District Court, D. Colorado
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 Florence Maroney ("Plaintiff") challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her application for supplemental security income benefits. The denial was affirmed by an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), who ruled Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("Act"). This appeal followed.
For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security disability benefits is AFFIRMED.
Plaintiff was born on February 24, 1966 and was 39 years old on the original alleged onset date. (Admin. Record ("R.") (ECF No. 9) at 519.) She was 42 years old on the protective filing date of her Title XVI application and the amended alleged onset of disability date. ( Id. ) Plaintiff has at least an eleventh grade education and received a certificate of training to be a nurse's aide. (R. at 190, 339.)
Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income under Tile XVI of the Act on June 23, 2008, alleging that she was disabled due to chronic pain, hypertension, depression, and spinal fusion. (R. at 152.) The application was initially denied and, after an administrative hearing in April 2010, ALJ James A. Wendland found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. at 8-27.) After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (R. at 1), Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to this Court, which remanded the matter back to the Social Security Administration to consider evidence Plaintiff submitted to the Appeals Council after the ALJ rendered his decision. (R. at 580-88.)
On remand, the ALJ held a new hearing on April 16, 2013. (R. at 527.) On May 3, 2013, he issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process. (R. at 506-20.) At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 23, 2008. (R. at 508.) At step two, he found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: "status-post cervical discetomy and decompression surgery with subsequent removal of hardware, degenerative disc disease, status-post ankle fracture, osteoarthritis, depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and paranoid schizophrenia." ( Id. ) The ALJ did not find Plaintiff's hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and hepatitis C to be severe impairments. ( 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. (R. at 509.) The ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), finding that she had the RFC to do a full range of work with the following specific restrictions and requirements:
Not required to lift and carry more than 10 pounds; not required to stoop or crouch more than occasionally; not required to climb, crawl, or kneel; not require[d] to stand and/or walk for more than 2 hours of out an 8 hour workday; not required to work above shoulder level with upper extremities; not required to handle or finger objects more than frequently; not required to work at unguarded heights or near unguarded hazardous mechanical equipment; not required to understand, remember, and carry out more than simple instructions; not required to interact with the public; not required to be exposed to cold temperatures; and not required to do repetitive up and down or side to side neck movements.
(R. at 512.)
At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. at 519.) At step five, the ALJ found that there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. ( Id. ) Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could work as an addressing clerk, document specialist, or jewelry preparer. (R. at 520.)
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act and, thus, not entitled to benefits. ( Id. ) Plaintiff did not file written exceptions with the Appeals Council and the Appeals Council did not review the ALJ's decision on its own. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 7.) Plaintiff then filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's May 3, 2013 decision. ( Id. )
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). ...