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Jones v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 30, 2017

DARRELL L. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on review of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") Commissioner's decision denying claimant Darrell Lionel Jones' application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act and for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI. Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons explained below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This appeal is based upon the administrative record and the parties' briefs. In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner, the District Court examines the record and determines whether it contains substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision and whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir. 1996). A decision is not 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). In addition, reversal may be appropriate if the Commissioner applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to demonstrate that the correct legal standards have been followed. Winfrey, 92 F.3d at 1019.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Jones was born on March 29, 1957. R. 27. He has a limited education but speaks English. Id. Within the past fifteen years Mr. Jones has worked as a warehouse worker at a noodle company. Id. However, since his amended, alleged disability onset date of August 21, 2009 he has not held substantial gainful employment. R. 13.

         Mr. Jones suffers from numerous health conditions, including a history of right leg fracture, gout, hypertension and abdominal aortic arthrosclerosis, degenerative disc disease, shoulder and arm pain, diabetes, mood disorder not otherwise specified (“NOS”) with anxiety, psychotic disorder NOS, alcohol dependency, mild cataracts, and refractive amblyopia. R. 13- 14. He alleges that some of these conditions, namely his psychological disorders and alcohol dependence, began shortly after his wife passed away on January 9, 2009. See R. 110-11. Some of his other ailments, including gout, hypertension, abdominal aortic arthrosclerosis, degenerative disc disease, shoulder and arm pain, and diabetes are either minor conditions or are well-controlled with medications. See R. 14.

         A. Procedural History.

         In March of 2012 Mr. Jones filed for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning July 1, 2002. R. 294-302. His claims were initially denied on January 3, 2013. R. 141. Later that month plaintiff filed a request for a hearing. R. 186-88. That hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jennifer A. Simmons on October 31, 2013, during which time plaintiff amended his alleged disability onset date to August 21, 2009. R. 11, 77-140. A supplemental hearing was held on February 6, 2014. R. 37-76. The ALJ subsequently denied plaintiff's application on May 27, 2014. R. 8-29. Plaintiff then filed a request for review with the Appeals Council on July 7, 2014. R. 6-7. His request was denied on September 4, 2015. R. 1-3. Mr. Jones then filed his case in this court on March 7, 2016. ECF No. 1.

         B. The ALJ's Decision.

         The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision after evaluating the evidence according to the SSA's standard five-step process. R. 11-29. First, the ALJ found that Mr. Jones had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of August 21, 2009. R. 13. At step two, the ALJ found that Mr. Jones had the severe impairments of: “history of right leg fracture; mood disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) with anxiety; psychotic disorder NOS; alcohol dependency; mild cataracts and refractive amblyopia.” Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Jones did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. R. 14.

         The ALJ then found that Mr. Jones retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform “medium work” as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) and § 416.967(c) with the following limitations:

[T]he claimant can frequently climb, balance, knee [sic], crouch, crawl, and/or stoop; he has the capacity for frequent vision in the areas of far acuity, near acuity, accommodation and depth perceptions; he can perform simple and repetitive tasks; he cannot perform tasks requiring interaction with the public' he cannot perform tasks requiring hypervigilance; he can occasionally perform tasks requiring teamwork; [and that] he should have no responsibility for the safety of others.

R. 16; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) (“Medium work involves lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds. If someone can do medium work, we determine that he or she can also do sedentary and light work.”); 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c) (same).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Jones is capable of performing his past relevant work as a warehouse worker because this job would not require plaintiff to perform any work or work-related activities that his RFC precluded. R. 27. Finally, at step five, the ALJ determined that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Jones could perform, such as a meat ...


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