United States District Court, D. Colorado
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Shaffer, United States Magistrate Judge
Judge Craig B. Shaffer This action comes before the court
pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et
seq., for review of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying Kelly Yvonne Owen's
(“Plaintiff”) application for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). On May 23, 2016, the
parties consented to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction
to “conduct any and all further proceedings in this
case, including the trial, and [to] order the entry of final
judgment.” Doc. 13. Accordingly, the case was referred
to this court on July 28, 2016. Doc. 19. The court has
carefully considered the Complaint (filed March 17, 2016)
(Doc. 1), Plaintiff's Opening Brief (filed June 22, 2016)
(Doc. 15), Defendant's Response Brief (filed July 13,
2016) (Doc. 16), the entire case file, the administrative
record, and the applicable law. For the following reasons,
the court REMANDS the Commissioner's decision for further
September 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI
benefits, alleging a disability onset date of February 1,
2010. (See Social Security
Administrative Record (hereinafter “AR”) at 10,
133). Plaintiff alleged that her ability to work was limited
by fibromyalgia/osteoporosis, bursitis, emotional issues,
numbness in her foot and leg, and back injuries and pain.
See Id. at 151. Plaintiff was born on October 16,
1956, and was 55 years old on the date of her alleged
disability onset. Id. at 16, 133. She completed the
12th grade and has previous work experience as a certified
nursing assistant, a medical assistant, and a commercial
cleaner. Id. at 50-54, 66. After her initial
application was denied, Plaintiff requested a hearing, which
was held on August 12, 2014, before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). See Id. at 36-72,
93-95. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the
October 24, 2014, the ALJ issued his decision denying
benefits. Id. at 7-22. 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
September 19, 2012. Id. at 12. At step two, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
(1) chronic alcohol abuse; (2) anxiety disorder; (3)
depressive disorder; (4) fibromyalgia; and (5) degenerative
disc disease of the thoracic spine. Id. At step
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment that met or medically equaled a listed impairment.
Id. at 12-14.
then assessed the following residual functional capacity
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except for the
following limitations: the ability to frequently perform all
postural activities and the ability to perform only simple,
routine, and repetitive work tasks consistent with unskilled
jobs corresponding to jobs at SVP 1-2.
Id. at 14.
four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was able to perform
her past relevant work as a commercial cleaner, which she
performed at a “light” exertional level.
Id. at 16. In the alternative, the ALJ also
concluded that there were other jobs in the economy that
Plaintiff could perform: (1) floor cleaner (unskilled medium
work (SVP 2)); (2) janitor (unskilled medium work (SVP 2));
and (3) motel housekeeper (unskilled light work (SVP 2)).
Id. at 17. Because there were a significant number
of jobs that Plaintiff could perform, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not meet the definition of
“disabled” for purposes of the Social Security
Act. Id. Accordingly, Plaintiff's application
for SSI was denied.
the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff requested review by the
Appeals Council. Id. at 30-32. The Appeals Council
denied her request on January 29, 2016. Id. at 1-5.
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 February 13, 2014.
(Doc. 1). The court has jurisdiction to review the final
decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 the substantiality test has
been met.” Flaherty, 515 F.3d at 1070
(internal citation omitted). Nevertheless, “if the ALJ
failed to apply the correct legal test, there is a ground for
reversal apart from a lack of substantial evidence.”
Thompson v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 1482, 1487 (10th Cir.
1993) (internal citation omitted).
raises numerous arguments on appeal. One of those arguments -
the ALJ erred in his evaluation of a treating source opinion
- is sufficient on its own to warrant reversal. Therefore,
the court declines to address the others as they may be
impacted on remand. SeeWatkins v.
Barnhart, 350 F.3d 1297, 1299 (10th Cir. 2003)
(“We will not reach the remaining issues raised by