United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER
RAYMOND P. MOORE United States District Judge.
October 1, 2015, plaintiff Theresa Ladenburger
(“plaintiff”) appealed the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security's (“defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of plaintiff's
application for Social Security disability benefits. (ECF No.
1.) In her Opening Brief, plaintiff raised the following
issues for judicial review: (1) did the Administrative Law
Judge (“the ALJ”) commit an error of law and was
its decision supported by substantial evidence; (2) did the ALJ
err in finding that plaintiff could do jobs in the national
economy when the only jobs possible did not have significant
numbers under 42 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c); (3) did the ALJ
commit reversible error in failing to find that plaintiff met
Medical Vocational Guidelines (a.k.a “the grid
rules”) 201.14; and (4) did the ALJ fail to properly
evaluate the functional evaluation of Doris Shriver. (ECF No.
this appeal being fully briefed (ECF Nos. 19, 21, 24), the
Court makes the following findings.
October 21, 2012, plaintiff filed an application seeking
disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning
as of November 30, 2012. (Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 92.) At step one of the five-step
evaluation process, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not
been engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 17,
2012. (Id. at 94.) At step two, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity;
cervical spine disorder; mild degeneration of the right
shoulder acromioclavicular joint; and myofasciitis of the
neck and shoulders. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ
determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the impairments listed in the governing
regulations. (Id. at 95.)
reaching step four, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work, except no
over chest level work, no climbing of ladders or scaffolds,
no extended arm reaching with the dominant upper extremity,
and only occasional turning and flexing of the neck.
(Id. at 95-101.) In so determining, the ALJ,
inter alia, gave no weight to the opinion of Doris
Shriver (“Shriver”), an occupational therapist
who performed a worker's compensation evaluation of
plaintiff, dated August 5, 2013. (Id. at 100.) The
ALJ found Shriver's opinion to have no weight because it
was a non-acceptable medical source, Shriver evaluated
plaintiff on one occasion, Shriver had limited interaction
with plaintiff, Shriver arrived at physical limitations that
exceeded limits recommended by acceptable medical sources,
and Shriver opined on plaintiff's mental functioning when
she was not qualified to do so. (Id.)
four, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was unable to perform
any of her past relevant work. (Id. at 101.) At step
five, the ALJ determined that, after considering
plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, plaintiff could perform jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy.
(Id. at 102.) Specifically, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff could perform the jobs of (1) dealer account
investigator, for which there were 35, 000 jobs in the
national economy and 200 jobs in Colorado, and (2) usher, for
which there were 9, 000 jobs nationally and approximately 250
in Colorado. (Id.) This final determination resulted
in the ALJ finding that plaintiff was not disabled for
purposes of the Social Security Act. (Id. at
Standard of Review
purpose of judicial review of an ALJ's decision is to
determine whether the “decision is free from legal
error and supported by substantial evidence.” Wall
v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009)
(quotation marks omitted). “Substantial evidence is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
(quotation marks omitted). In performing this review, a court
may not re-weigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for
that of the ALJ. Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199,
1201 (10th Cir. 2015).
The Five Step Evaluation Process
five-step process exists for evaluating whether a person is
disabled under the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920(a)(4). First, the claimant
must demonstrate that he or she is not currently involved in
any substantial, gainful activity. Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b), 416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the
claimant must show a medically severe impairment or
combination of impairments that significantly limit his or
her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, if the impairment matches or is
equivalent to an established listing under the governing
regulations, the claimant is judged conclusively disabled.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d),
claimant's impairment does not match or is not equivalent
to an established listing, the evaluation proceeds to a
fourth step, which requires that the claimant show the
impairment prevents him or her from performing work he or she
has performed in the past. Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant
is able to perform his or her previous work, he or she is not
disabled. Id. §§ 404.1520(f),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). Finally, if the claimant cannot perform
his or her past work, the Commissioner must demonstrate that:
(1) based upon the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work
experience, the claimant can perform other work; and (2) the
work that the claimant can perform is available in
significant numbers in the national economy. Frey v.
Bowen, 816 F.2d 508, 512 (10th Cir. 1987); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), (g),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the Commissioner fails to meet this
burden, then the claimant is deemed disabled. Frey,
816 F.2d at 512.
in the National ...