Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Piper v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 21, 2016

LYDIA PIPER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER VACATING DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge.

         This is a Social Security Benefits appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff Lydia Piper (“Piper”) challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her application for disability insurance benefits. The denial was affirmed by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who ruled that Piper 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 Piper's application for disability insurance benefits is VACATED and this case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Piper was born on February 12, 1957, and was 55 years old on the alleged onset date of May 17, 2012. (Administrative Record (“R.”) (ECF No. 11) at 71.) Piper graduated from high school and has, in the last nineteen years, worked as a billing manager and officer coordinator. (R. at 177.)

         Piper applied for disability insurance benefits on December 13, 2012, with a protective filing date of December 12, 2012. (R. at 146, 184.) Piper claimed that she is disabled due to the following conditions: severe back injuries (resulting in surgery and spinal injections), depression, leg numbness and sharp pain, low back pain, ruptured discs, and nerve damage. (R. at 175.) Her application was denied on June 12, 2013. (R. at 86.) Piper's reported pain and functional limitations were further compromised by an “additional back injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident on March 22, 2014.” (R. at 29.) Piper requested and received a hearing in front of an ALJ, Patricia Hartman. (R. at 89.) On August 6, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process. (R. at 20.)[1]

         At step one, the ALJ found that Piper had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 17, 2012. (R. at 26.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that Piper suffered from “the following severe impairments: hypertension and status-post L3-4 laminectomy and microdiscectomy with recurrent herniations at ¶ 3-4 and L4-5.” (Id.) The ALJ did not find that any other claimed condition was a severe impairment. (R. at 27.)

         At step three, the ALJ found that Piper's impairments, while severe, did not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed in the Social Security regulations. (R. at 27-28.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Piper's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). The ALJ concluded that Piper has the RFC “to perform light work, except that she needs to be able to sit hourly for 5-10 minutes while remaining on task.” (R. at 28.) Then, at step four, the ALJ concluded Piper could continue to perform her past relevant work as an “office coordinator.” (R. at 32.)

         The ALJ's conclusion at step four was, by itself, sufficient to deny Piper'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 in the national economy that Piper can perform. (R. at 33.)

         Accordingly, the ALJ found that Piper was not entitled to disability insurance benefits. (Id.) Piper appealed to the Social Security Appeals Council (R. at 13), which denied review (R. at 1). Piper then filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's August 6, 2014 decision. (ECF No. 1.)

         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). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.