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Williams v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 13, 2017

PANON WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. WATANABE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The government determined that Plaintiff is not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff has asked this Court to review that decision. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and both parties have agreed to have this case decided by a U.S. Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         Standard of Review

         In Social Security appeals, the Court reviews the decision of the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) to determine whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Pisciotta v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 1074, 1075 (10th Cir. 2007). “Substantial evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Raymond v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 1269, 1271-72 (10th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court “should, indeed must, exercise common sense” and “cannot insist on technical perfection.” Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue, 695 F.3d 1156, 1166 (10th Cir. 2012). The Court cannot reweigh the evidence or its credibility. Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007).

         Discussion

         At the second step of the Commissioner's five-step sequence for making determinations, [1] the ALJ found that Plaintiff “has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees and back, flat feet, vi[til]igo, and hypertension.” (AR 10.) Together with Plaintiff's non-severe limitations, the ALJ then determined that Plaintiff has the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”), as is relevant here:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a range of medium work as defined in the Regulations with the following restrictions and limitations: the claimant is able to lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. The claimant is able to sit six hours and stand and/or walk six hours during an eight-hour workday. The claimant is able to frequently stoop, kneel, and crouch.

(AR 13-14.) The ALJ found that, considering Plaintiff's “age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform, ” such as a hand packager and kitchen helper. (AR 17.) Therefore, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not been under a disability since November 30, 2012, the date the application was filed. (AR 18.)

         Plaintiff proceeds on appeal pro se. Defendant has organized Plaintiff's contentions as follows: first, the Appeals Council did not consider her new evidence; second, the ALJ failed to obtain additional psychological testing and his findings on Plaintiff's mental impairment were not supported by substantial evidence; and third, the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff did not meet or medically equal the requirements of a listed impairment. The Court finds this a reasonable way to frame the issues, and will discuss each argument in turn.

         I. Evidence Submitted to Appeals Council

         Plaintiff submitted to the Appeals Council a letter that she wrote, medical records from Kaiser Permanente, and medical records from Aurora Mental Health Center. (AR 4.) The Appeals Council found that this information did not provide a basis for changing the ALJ's decision. (AR 2.) The Court agrees.

         The Appeals Council is required to review new evidence that is “new, material, and chronologically relevant.” Martinez v. Barnhart, 444 F.3d 1201, 1207 (10th Cir. 2006) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.970(b)). The Appeals Council is not required to provide an express analysis of the effect of the new material. Id. at 1208. See also Lynn v. Colvin, 637 F.App'x 495, 497 (10th Cir. 2016) (unpublished) (holding that the Appeals Council satisfies its obligation by stating that it has considered the additional evidence and that it does not provide a basis for changing the ALJ's decision). Because the Appeals Council stated that it considered the new evidence and determined that it did not provide a basis for changing the ALJ's decision, it adequately addressed the new evidence.

         Moreover, as Defendant points out, much of the material that Plaintiff submitted was not new in that it was already a part of the record. Of the records that are new, none undercut the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. The records refer to Plaintiff's medical conditions that were thoroughly discussed in the ALJ's decision, including her ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorder. Had these records been available to ALJ, there is nothing to indicate that they would have altered his findings. Accordingly, the Court will not remand on these grounds.

         II. ...


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