United States District Court, D. Colorado
Brooke Jackson United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on review of the
Commissioner's decision denying claimant Rachel Marie
Barrett's application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). For the reasons explained below, the Court
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
appeal is based upon the administrative record and the
parties' briefs. In reviewing a final decision by the
Commissioner, the role of the District Court is to examine
the record and determine whether it “contains
substantial evidence to support the [Commissioner's]
decision and whether the [Commissioner] applied the correct
legal standards.” Rickets v. Apfel, 16
F.Supp.2d 1280, 1287 (D. Colo. 1998). A decision cannot be
based on substantial evidence if it is “overwhelmed by
other evidence in the record.” Bernal v.
Bowen, 851 F.2d 297, 299 (10th Cir. 1988). Substantial
evidence requires “more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance.” Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d
1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009). Evidence is not substantial if
it “constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992).
Regarding the application of the law, “reversal may be
appropriate when the [Social Security Administration]
Commissioner either applies an incorrect legal standard or
fails to demonstrate reliance on the correct legal
standards.” Springer v. Astrue, No.
11-cv-02606, 2013 WL 491923, at *5 (D. Colo. Feb. 7, 2013)
(internal citation omitted).
Barrett was born on January 24, 1983. R. 25. She resides in
Denver, Colorado. R. 71. She has a high school
education, and her past employment includes work as a child
daycare worker and daycare teacher. R. 25. However, since her
amended, alleged disability onset date of February 22, 2011,
Ms. Barrett has not held substantial gainful employment. R.
Barrett's relevant medical history begins in February
2011. On February 22, 2011 Ms. Barrett, who has a history of
deep vein thrombosis (“DVT”) in her right leg,
sought treatment for lower right leg pain. R. 323-27.
Although she had moderate tenderness and mild swelling in her
upper and middle leg, her evaluation returned no evidence of
DVT at that time. R. 324-25. It did, however, reveal
superficial venous thrombosis (“SVT”) in
“the greater saphenous vein and lesser saphenous
vein.” R. 324. Plaintiff would again seek treatment for
an aching pain in her right leg on July 29, 2011. R. 317-20.
The evaluation conducted during this visit once again came
back mostly normal, aside from noting tenderness in Ms.
Barrett's thigh and right leg SVT. R. 318 (noting
“[n]o erythema, swelling, laceration, abrasion or
ecchymosis [in plaintiff's extremities and no] extremity
one year after her the first evaluation described above, Ms.
Barrett again sought treatment. This time, however, it was
for right lower leg swelling and worsening chest pain on
February 28, 2012. R. 304-15, 332-33, 468. Her evaluation
during this visit noted that Ms. Barrett had “severe
right calf pain, ” and that she had “extensive
right leg deep venous thrombosis.” R. 304, 332. Ms.
Barrett was subsequently hospitalized until the next day,
February 29, 2012, at which time she was transferred to
Denver Health where she remained until March 2, 2012. R. 312,
468. Plaintiff's discharge diagnoses revealed acute
pulmonary embolism, DVT, right leg pain, as well as
“acute hypoxic respiratory failure[.]” R. 468.
Dr. Katherine Anderson subsequently conducted a follow-up
evaluation of Ms. Barrett on March 16, 2012, noting that Ms.
Barrett had “[w]armth and heat and swelling over her
right calf.” R. 441- 42. Her pulmonary exam, however,
came back clear. R. 442.
to the record, Ms. Barrett next received medical care on
August 8, 2012. R. 297. During this visit, Ms. Barrett once
again complained of pain and swelling in her right leg.
Id. Her examination, however, revealed that she did
not have any acute changes in her lower extremity, nor did
she have any motor or sensory deficit. R. 298-99. It
nonetheless revealed that plaintiff was obese with a body
mass index (“BMI”) of 37 at that time. R. 298.
Ms. Barrett was subsequently sent home in “good
Barrett again saw Dr. Anderson again on December 14, 2012. R.
375. This time, Ms. Barrett reported aches and pains while
“she is down on the floor for 30 minutes playing with
her daughter” and that she had “increased
swelling in her right lower extremity.” Id.
She nevertheless reported “stay[ing] fairly active
walking her child, ” and that she “gets out and
about.” Id. Ms. Barrett also reported no chest
pain during this visit. Id. Dr. Anderson
nevertheless noted that, based on her medical history, Ms.
Barrett had “[r]ecurrent DVTs in [her] . . . right
lower extremity with pain and swelling if [she] . . . does
not elevate her legs frequently.” R. 375.
March 29, 2013 through April 1, 2013 Ms. Barrett was once
again hospitalized, this time for upper GI bleeding.
See R. 264. She again saw Dr. Anderson before being
discharged on April 2, 2013. R. 353. At that time, Dr.
Anderson revised Ms. Barrett's Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families (“TANF”) paperwork “to state
[that claimant] . . . was unable to tolerate more than 20
hours [of work] per week” due to this recent
hospitalization. See R. 353. Dr. Anderson also
devised a plan to deal with Ms. Barrett's upper GI
bleeding, stress, and other conditions. Id.
Anderson then saw plaintiff several months later on June 21,
2013. R. 502. During this visit, Dr. Anderson noted that
plaintiff had “a warm, tender area in her leg.”
Id. Dr. Anderson recommended lidocaine for
plaintiff's pain, also referring her to pool therapy for
exercise. Id. Her BMI at this time was reported to
be 39.4. R. 503. Later that same year on October 29, 2013 Ms.
Barrett again sought medical attention, reporting nausea and
abdominal cramping. R. 512. Dr. Anderson's physical
evaluation of plaintiff during this visit revealed that
plaintiff's cardiovascular signs were normal, but that
she had “[m]ild left upper quadrant tenderness to deep
palpation.” Id. In an addendum to Dr.
Anderson's clinical notes, she noted that Ms.
Barrett's international normalized ratio
(“INR”)-a measurement related to blood
clotting-was “extremely elevated[, ]” which meant
that plaintiff's blood was very thin and that she should
stop taking her anticoagulant medication. R. 513.
this same time plaintiff underwent a psychological
examination with Debra Grote, Ph.D. R. 493-98. Dr. Grote
noted that plaintiff had a low average intelligence, a
learning disorder, and a depressive disorder with
intermittent, but not current, depression. Id. Dr.
Grote subsequently gave her opinion that plaintiff would
“unlikely” be able to “obtain and regain