United States District Court, D. Colorado
Brooke Jackson United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on review of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) Commissioner's
decision denying claimant Brent Allen Ward's applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act. Jurisdiction is proper
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons below, the
Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
Ward was born on January 31, 1965. R. 37. He has at least a
high school education and speaks English. Id. In the
past, Mr. Ward worked as a truck driver, an automotive
technician, and a cable installer/maintainer and supervisor
in the United States Army. Id. However, since his
alleged disability onset date of October 5, 2011, Mr. Ward
has not held substantial gainful employment. R. 12.
March 20, 2015, Mr. Ward filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability beginning on October 5, 2011.
See R. 10. His claim was initially denied on July 9,
2015. Id. Mr. Ward subsequently requested a hearing,
which was held in Pueblo, Colorado before Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) Matthew C. Kawalek on October 28,
2015. R. 71-120. The ALJ denied Mr. Ward's application on
December 10, 2015. R. 10-39. Mr. Ward then filed a request
for review with the Appeals Council, which that body rejected
on March 3, 2016. R. 1-5. Mr. Ward then filed his case in
this Court on April 11, 2016. ECF No. 1.
The ALJ's Decision.
issued an unfavorable decision after evaluating the evidence
according to the SSA's standard five-step process. R.
10-39. First, the ALJ found that Mr. Ward had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of
October 5, 2011. R. 12. At step two, the ALJ found that Mr.
Ward had the severe impairments of “degenerative joint
disease of the bilateral hips, and status post right hip
total hip replacement and mild degenerative joint disease;
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine and lumbar
spine; obesity; obstructive sleep apnea; post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD)/anxiety; and depression.”
Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Ward
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 1. R.
then found that Mr. Ward retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform “light
work” as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) with
the following limitations:
[T]he claimant can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and
10 pounds frequently. He can stand and/or walk for six hours
in an 8-hour workday, and can sit for six hours in an 8-hour
workday. He can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He
occasionally can kneel, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. He
frequently can balance, stoop, and crouch. He occasionally
can reach overhead bilaterally and frequently can reach in
all other directions bilaterally. He should have no more than
occasional exposure to hazards. He cannot perform any
commercial driving. The claimant can understand, remember,
and carry out detailed but not complex tasks and
instructions. He can have no more than frequent interaction
with co-workers and supervisors, and no more than occasional
interaction with the general public.
four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Ward was not capable of
performing any of his past relevant work. R. 37.
Nevertheless, at step five, the ALJ determined that there
were other jobs in the national economy that Mr. Ward could
perform, such as a dry cleaning or laundry worker, an
assembler of small products, and a ...