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Cantu v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 26, 2017

PAUL CANTU, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER VACATING DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

          WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a social security benefits appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff Paul Cantu (“Cantu”) challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying his application for disability insurance benefits. The denial was affirmed by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who ruled that Cantu was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. This appeal followed.

         For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision denying Cantu's application for disability insurance benefits is VACATED and the case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Cantu was born in 1966, and was 46 years old on the alleged disability onset date. (Admin. Record (“R.”) (ECF No. 11) at 51.) Cantu completed high school and has previously worked as a construction worker, concrete layer, and electrician's assistant. (R. at 46, 59, 165.)

         Cantu filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on February 21, 2013, alleging that he has been disabled since December 15, 2012 due to multiple impairments, including: bilateral heel fractures, depression, and back pain. (R. at 50.) Cantu's application was initially denied and he requested an administrative hearing in front of an ALJ, which was held on October 24, 2014. (R. at 36.) On November 7, 2014, the ALJ, Earl W. Shaffer, issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process. (R. at7-19.)[1]

          At step one, the ALJ found that Cantu had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. at 12.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that Cantu suffered from the following severe impairments: bilateral calcaneal fractures with osteopenia, chronic non-united scaphoid fracture with osteonecrosis of the proximal fracture of left wrist, mild multilevel disc desiccation, and degenerative changes of the lumbar spine. (Id. 12.)

         At step three, the ALJ found that Cantu's impairments, while severe, did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments listed in the Social Security regulations. (R. at 13.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Cantu's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). The ALJ concluded that Cantu has the RFC to “perform sedentary work[, ]” with the following restrictions:

[E]xcept the claimant can lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally with his left hand with assistance from him right arm but only 10 pounds occasionally and five pounds frequently with his right arm. He can stand or walk for two hours out of an eight hour workday with the ability to alternate between sitting and standing as needed. He can sit for six hours out of an eight hour workday with the ability to change postures every 45 minutes to an hour during the course of a day. He can push and pull with his lower extremity and right upper extremity at the exertional level of light. He cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds but can occasionally climb stairs and ramps. He cannot balance or crawl but stooping, kneeling, crouching is occasional. He should avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, unprotected heights, vibrations, hazards, and major manufacturing machinery. He can occasionally handle and finger with left upper extremity.

(R. at 14.)

         Next, at step four, the ALJ concluded that Cantu “is unable to perform any past relevant work.” (R. at 17.) Thus, the ALJ proceeded to step five and found that there was work Cantu could perform in the national and regional economy, specifically, the semi-skilled jobs of telephone sales (SVP-3), order clerk (SVP-4), and information clerk (SVP-4). (R. at 18.)[2]

         Accordingly, the ALJ found that Cantu was not entitled to disability insurance benefits. (R. at 19.) Cantu appealed to the Social Security Appeals Council, which denied review. (R. at 1-3.) Cantu then timely filed this action ...


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