United States District Court, D. Colorado
SHAWN D. WEST, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Shaffer United States Magistrate Judge.
action comes before the court pursuant to Titles II and XVI
of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-33 and 1381-83(c) for review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying
Shawn D. West's (“Plaintiff”) application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Pursuant to
the Order of Reference dated June 4, 2015, this civil action
was referred to the Magistrate Judge for all purposes
pursuant to D.C. Colo. LCivR 72.2 and Title 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). See Doc. 25. The court has carefully
considered the Complaint (filed October 3, 2014) (Doc. 1),
Defendant's Answer (filed December 15, 2014) (Doc. 8),
Plaintiff's Opening Brief (filed February 10, 2015) (Doc.
13), Defendant's Response Brief (filed April 8, 2015)
(Doc. 17), Plaintiff's Reply (filed May 6, 2015) (Doc.
18), the entire case file, the administrative record, and the
applicable law. For the following reasons, the court REMANDS
the Commissioner's decision for further proceedings.
2008, Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits.
(See Social Security Administrative Record
(hereinafter “AR”) at 420-25). He alleges a
disability onset date of April 1, 2008, due to atrial
fibrillation. Id. at 114, 500, 505. Plaintiff was
born on April 30, 1960, and was nearly 48 years old on the
date of his alleged disability onset. Id. at 420. He
has completed an associate degree and has previous work
experience as a DES operator, a quality inspector/supervisor,
and a safety coordinator. Id. at 112, 516-17.
his initial application was denied, Plaintiff requested a
hearing, which was held on May 18, 2010, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). See
Id. at 109-37, 139-40. Following this hearing,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled.
Id. 141-61. In February 2012, the Appeals Council
granted Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision, vacated the decision, and remanded the case to the
ALJ for further evaluation of the treating source opinions in
the record. Id. at 188-92. Thereafter, the ALJ
conducted two more hearings. See Id. at 51-83,
December 20, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision denying
benefits. Id. at 20-50. The ALJ's opinion
followed the five-step process outlined in the Social
Security regulations. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful employment since April
1, 2008. Id. at 25. At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: (1) cardiac
disorder (atrial fibrillation and cardia arrhythmia); (2)
narcissistic personality disorder; and (3) anxiety disorder.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did
not have an impairment that met or medically equaled a listed
impairment. Id. at 26-27.
then assessed the following residual functional capacity
The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),
except as follows. The claimant is able to frequently stoop,
crouch, kneel, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. The
claimant is occasionally able to climb ladders, scaffolds,
and ropes. The claimant is able to have occasional,
non-intense, interactions with coworkers and supervisors. The
claimant should not interact with the public.
Id. at 27.
four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was able to perform
three positions from his past relevant work. Id. at
41. Consequently, he found that Plaintiff had not been under
a disability as defined in the Social Security Act.
Id. at 42. Accordingly, Plaintiff's application
for disability benefits was denied.
the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff again requested review by
the Appeals Council. Id. at 7-19. The Appeals
Council denied his request on August 29, 2014. Id.
at 1-6. The decision of the ALJ then became the final
decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981;
Nelson v. Sullivan, 992 F.2d 1118, 1119 (10th Cir.
1993) (citation omitted). Plaintiff filed this action on
October 3, 2014. (Doc. 1). The court has jurisdiction to
review the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C.
reviewing the Commissioner's final decision, the court is
limited to determining whether the decision adheres to
applicable legal standards and is supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole. Berna v. Chater,
101 F.3d 631, 632 (10th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted);
Angel v. Barnhart,329 F.3d 1208, 1209 (10th Cir.
2003). The court may not reverse an ALJ simply because it may
have reached a different result based on the record; the
question instead is whether there is substantial evidence
showing that the ALJ was justified in his decision. See
Ellison v. Sullivan,929 F.2d 534, 536 (10th Cir. 1990).
“Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla and
is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion.” Flaherty v.
Astrue,515 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal
citation omitted). Moreover, “[e]vidence is not
substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the
record or constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v.
Sullivan,966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992) (internal
citation omitted). The court will not “reweigh the
evidence or retry the case, ” but must
“meticulously examine the record as a whole, including
anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's
findings in order to determine if ...