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Beals v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 10, 2015

STERLING BEALS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This is a Social Security benefits appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff Sterling Beals (“Beals”) challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying his application for supplemental security income benefits and disability insurance benefits. The denial was affirmed by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who ruled that Beals was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. This appeal followed.

For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ’s decision denying Beals’s application for supplemental security income benefits and disability benefits is affirmed.

I. BACKGROUND

Beals was born on May 4, 1974, and was 37 years old on the alleged disability onset date of August 20, 2011. (Administrative Record (“R.”) (ECF No. 10) at 59, 116.) Beals’ highest completed grade was eighth grade, and, although he eventually obtained a high school diploma, he admits that he cheated to pass the required courses. (R. at 26, 40.) Before the alleged disability onset date, Beals worked as a semi-truck driver and dump truck driver. (R. at 55.)

Beals applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on January 5, 2012. (R. at 59.) He claimed that he is disabled due to severe depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (“OCD”). (Id.) His application was denied on May 8, 2012. (R. at 58-69.) Beals requested and received a hearing in front of an ALJ, Jennifer B. Millington. (R. at 24, 73.) On July 24, 2013, 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 Beals had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 20, 2011. (R. at 13.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Beals suffered from “the following severe impairments: major depression; obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and alcohol abuse.” (Id.)

At step three, the ALJ found that Beals’s impairments, while severe, do not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed in the Social Security regulations. (R. at 13-15.)

Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Beals’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”). The ALJ concluded that Beals has the RFC

to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant can understand, remember and carry out simple tasks that can be learned in one month or less, in employment that has no to rare work interactions with the public and occasional work interactions with coworkers and supervisors.

(R. at 15.) Then, at step four itself, the ALJ concluded that Beals retains the RFC to perform his past work as a dump truck driver. (R. at 17.)

The ALJ’s conclusion at step four was, by itself, sufficient to deny Beals’s disability application. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The ALJ nonetheless proceeded to step five and alternatively found that other jobs exist within Beals’s RFC. (R. at 17-18.) Specifically, the ALJ found that Beals could work as a janitor, warehouse worker, and hand packager, and that positions for each of these jobs are sufficiently numerous in both the national and Colorado economies. (R. at 18.) Accordingly, the ALJ found that Beals was not disabled and therefore not entitled to Social Security benefits. (Id.)

Beals appealed to the Social Security Appeals Council (R. at 6), which denied review (R. at 1). Beals then filed this action seeking review of the ...


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