United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER
E. Blackburn United States District Judge
matter before me is plaintiff's
Complaint [#1],  filed October 21, 2015,
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying
plaintiff's claims for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income benefits under Titles II and XVI
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et
seq. I have jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The matter has been fully briefed, obviating the need
for oral argument. I affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleges he was disabled during a closed period as a result of
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine
and a comminuted calcaneal (right heel) fracture, post-status
subtalar and talocalcaneal fusion. After his applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits were denied, plaintiff requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge. This hearing was held on
April 14, 2014. At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was 53
years old. He has a high school education and past relevant
work experience as a carpenter, mechanic, welder, millwright,
stock clerk, lumber handler, and a janitor. He did not engage
in substantial gainful activity between April 25, 2011, and
July 1, 2013.
found plaintiff was not disabled during that time and
therefore not entitled to a closed period of disability
insurance benefits or supplemental security income benefits.
Although the medical evidence established that plaintiff
suffered from severe impairments, the judge found the
severity of those impairments did not meet or equal any
impairment listed in the social security regulations. The ALJ
determined plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to
perform light work with certain postural restrictions during
the alleged period of disability. Although this finding
precluded plaintiff's past relevant work, the ALJ
concluded there were jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national and local economies he could perform. She
therefore found plaintiff not disabled at step five of the
sequential evaluation. Plaintiff appealed this decision to
the Appeals Council. The Council affirmed. Plaintiff then
filed this action in federal court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act only if his physical and/or mental impairments preclude
him from performing both his previous work and any other
“substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2). “When a
claimant has one or more severe impairments the Social
Security [Act] requires the [Commissioner] to consider the
combined effects of the impairments in making a disability
determination.” Campbell v.
Bowen, 822 F.2d 1518, 1521 (10th
Cir. 1987) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(C)). However,
the mere existence of a severe impairment or combination of
impairments does not require a finding that an individual is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. To be
disabling, the claimant's condition must be so
functionally limiting as to preclude any substantial gainful
activity for at least twelve consecutive months.
See Kelley v. Chater, 62 F.3d 335,
338 (10th Cir. 1995).
Commissioner has established a quinquepartite sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
1. The ALJ must first ascertain whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
working is not disabled regardless of the medical findings.
2. The ALJ must then determine whether the claimed impairment
is “severe.” A “severe impairment”
must significantly limit the claimant's physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities.
3. The ALJ must then determine if the impairment meets or
equals in severity certain impairments described in Appendix
1 of the regulations.
4. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a
listed impairment, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant can perform her past work despite any limitations.
5. If the claimant does not have the residual functional
capacity to perform her past work, the ALJ must decide
whether the claimant can perform any other gainful and
substantial work in the economy. This determination is made
on the basis of the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I)-(v).See also
Williams v. Bowen844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th
Cir. 1988). The claimant has the initial burden of
establishing a disability in the first four steps of this
analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5,
107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294 n.5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). The burden
then shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant is
capable of performing work in the national economy.
Id. A finding that the claimant is disabled or not
disabled at any point in the five-step review is ...