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Moreno v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 11, 2016

RAUL A. MORENO, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



This matter is before the Court on Raul A. Moreno’s (“Plaintiff”) request for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff challenges the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Plaintiff’s applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of the Social Security Act (“Act”). An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) ruled Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act and therefore not entitled to DIB or SSI.

Defendant provided the Court with the administrative record. (ECF Nos. 14; 14-1; 14-2; 14-3; 14-4; 14-5; 14-6; 14-7; 14-8.) The matter is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. (ECF Nos. 17; 18; 19.)

For the reasons set forth below, the Court vacates the denial of Plaintiff’s applications and remands for proceedings consistent with this Order.


At issue in this matter[1], Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI in September 2011, alleging he was disabled as of June 26, 2009, due to the following conditions that limit his ability to work: asthma, hip and back pain, allergies, arthritis of the knees, sleep apnea, nerve problems, depression, left leg sciatica (Admin. R. (“Tr.”) 137-45, 28, 160.) Plaintiff, during a hearing before the ALJ, amended his alleged onset date to November 11, 2010. (Tr. 27-28.) After Plaintiff’s applications were initially denied (Tr. 87-100), Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ (Tr. 101). The ALJ denied Plaintiff’s applications. (Tr. 7-23.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ’s decision (Tr. 6) and, in July 2014, the Appeals Council denied such review (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff timely requested judicial review before the Court.

A. Background and Relevant Medical Evidence[2]

Plaintiff was born in July 1956. (Tr. 139.) Plaintiff was 54 years old on his amended alleged onset of disability and 56 years old on the date of the ALJ’s January 2013 decision. (See Tr. 22-23, 139.) Plaintiff completed high school. (Tr. 161.) Plaintiff’s past relevant work history, as referenced in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, includes: quality control technician and computerized numerical control (“CNC”) operator. (Tr. 41.)

Plaintiff claims he is disabled due to a combination of physical and mental health impairments. (Tr. 137-45, 28, 160.) In this appeal, Plaintiff raises issues only with regard to his physical impairments. (ECF No. 17 at 2 n.3.)

In 2008 and 2009, Plaintiff went to Peak Vista Community Health Center for treatment of groin pain and upper respiratory complaints. (Tr. 285-92.)

From September 2009 through May 2010, Plaintiff received medical treatment for his asthma, sleep apnea, cold symptoms, and allergies. (Tr. 215-50, 259-65.) While Plaintiff was incarcerated with the Colorado Department of Corrections, a hip x-ray was normal (Tr. 260); knee x-rays showed degenerative narrowing in both knees (Tr. 260); and a chest x-ray showed hyperaeration of the lungs with no acute infiltrates (Tr. 263).

Subsequent to Plaintiff’s incarceration, he received medical treatment for hives and asthma at Family Medical Clinics. (Tr. 321-31.) In September 2010, treatment notes from a Peak Vista physical examination showed regular respirations, normal cardiovascular function, normal musculoskeletal strength, normal tone, normal gait, normal motor function, and full reflexes. (Tr. 280-84.)

In November 2010, Plaintiff, at Peak Vista, received an orthopedic evaluation related to his knee pain and received a diagnosis of degenerative arthritis in both knees. (Tr. 307, see also Tr. 293-96.)

In 2011, Plaintiff went to the Family Medical Clinic on multiple occasions for complaints related to cold symptoms, headaches, sinus pressure, fever, sciatica, allergies, and asthma treatment. (Tr. 325-28.) In November 2011, a doctor noted that Plaintiff was not a candidate for knee surgery due to his morbid obesity and that Plaintiff should lose weight to alleviate knee pain. (Tr. 329.) In 2012, Plaintiff was diagnosed with left leg sciatica. (Tr. 359-63.)

In November 2011, Ryan Otten, M.D., performed a consultative examination of Plaintiff in connection with Plaintiff’s disability applications. (Tr. 341-51.) Dr. Otten noted no significant hip abnormalities based on an x-ray (Tr. 341); right knee arthritis based on an x-ray (Tr. 341-42); and moderately severe airway obstruction based on a spirometry report (Tr. 343.) Dr. Otten diagnosed chronic dyspnea with a history of asthma; a moderately obstructed airway; obstructive sleep apnea; bilateral knee osteoarthritis; chronic low back pain; and morbid obesity. (Tr. 351.) Dr. Otten opined that, during a normal eight-hour workday, Plaintiff could stand and walk one to two hours; bend, squat, crouch, stoop, and kneel for one or two hours; should have a cane with him at all times (despite noting that Plaintiff did not have a cane present with him at the examination (Tr. 349)); could lift or carry fewer than 15 pounds frequently and fewer than 30 pounds occasionally; could push and pull two hours total; could climb stairs for no more than one hour; should never climb ladders; and should only work in an environment with good air quality. (Tr. 351.)

Plaintiff and Gerald W. Riley completed a “work history report.” (Tr. 200-08.) In pertinent part, as a quality control technician, Plaintiff reported that he walked 2 hours a day in this position and stood 6 hours a day. (Tr. 202.) Plaintiff further reported that he “would lift and carry parts of the machine for up to a mile to be further reviewed.” (Tr. 202.) Plaintiff reported that the heaviest weight he lifted was 100 pounds or ...

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