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 II of the Social Security Act
(“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for review of
the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner” or “Defendant”)'s
final decision denying Bryent Lionel Rowe's
(“Plaintiff”) application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Plaintiff filed
the Complaint on June 20, 2016 (doc. 1), and the case was
assigned to District Judge Robert E. Blackburn. On August 29,
2016, the parties consented to magistrate jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 626. Doc. 12. On November 4,
2016, the case was reassigned to this Magistrate Judge. Doc.
19. The court has carefully considered the Complaint,
Plaintiff's Opening Brief (filed September 29, 2016)
(doc. 14), Defendant's Response Brief (filed October 20,
2016) (doc. 17), Plaintiff's Reply (filed November 4,
2016) (doc. 18), the entire case file, the Social Security
administrative record (“AR, ” doc. 10), and the
applicable law. Oral argument would not assist the court. For
the following reasons, the court reverses and remands the
SECURITY LAW AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
entitled to DIB, the claimant must be disabled.
A person is disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act only if his physical and/or mental impairments
preclude him from performing both his previous work and any
other “substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2).
“When a claimant has one or more severe impairments the
Social Security [Act] requires the [Commissioner] to consider
the combined effects of the impairments in making a
disability determination.” …. However, the mere
existence of a severe impairment or combination of
impairments does not require a finding that an individual is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. To be
disabling, the claimant's condition must be so
functionally limiting as to preclude any substantial gainful
activity for at least twelve consecutive months.
Wilson v. Astrue, No. 10-cv-00675-REB, 2011 WL
97234, at *1 (D. Colo. Jan. 12, 2011) (quoting Campbell
v. Bowen, 822 F.2d 1518, 1521 (10th Cir. 1987)).
Commissioner's regulations define a five-step process for
determining whether a claimant is disabled:
1. The ALJ [(administrative law judge)] must first ascertain
whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. A claimant who is working is not disabled
regardless of the medical findings.
2. The ALJ must then determine whether the claimed impairment
is “severe.” A “severe impairment”
must significantly limit the claimant's physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities.
3. The ALJ must then determine if the impairment meets or
equals in severity certain impairments described in Appendix
1 of the regulations.
4. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a
listed impairment, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant can perform his past work despite any limitations.
5. If the claimant does not have the residual functional
capacity to perform her past work, the ALJ must decide
whether the claimant can perform any other gainful and
substantial work in the economy. This determination is made
on the basis of the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity
Wilson, 2011 WL 97234, at *2 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b)-(f); Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d
748, 750-51 (10th Cir. 1988)). After the third step, the ALJ
is required to assess the claimant's RFC. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). The claimant has the burden of proof in
steps one through four. The Commissioner bears the burden of
proof at step five. Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080,
1084 (10th Cir. 2007).
reviewing the Commissioner's final decision,
[o]ur review is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether
the agency's factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. It is more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance.
Lee v. Berryhill, No. 16-5163, ___ F. App'x ___,
2017 WL 2297392, at *1 (10th Cir. May 25, 2017) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted, citing inter alia
Knight ex rel. P.K. v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 1171, 1175 (10th
Cir. 2014)). See also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(“The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
the court may not reverse an ALJ because the court may have
reached a different result based on the record; the question
is instead whether there is substantial evidence showing that
the ALJ was justified in his or her decision. See Ellison
v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534, 536 (10th Cir. 1990).
“We review only the sufficiency of the evidence, not
its weight .... Although the evidence may also have supported
contrary findings, we may not displace the agency's
choice between two fairly conflicting views.”
Lee, 2017 WL 2297392, at *2. Nevertheless,
“[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). In
addition, “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
6, 2013, through his attorney, Plaintiff applied for DIB
under Title II of the Social Security Act. AR at 233
(disability report June 12, 2013). From October 1998 until at
least February 2013, Plaintiff was an equipment operator
specialist at the Denver International Airport. Id.
at 239. After an extended absence from work due to a knee
injury, Plaintiff underwent a medical evaluation and obtained
a medical waiver to maintain his commercial driver license
(“CDL”) despite taking insulin. See, e.g.,
Id. at 246. Although the waiver sufficed for purposes of
maintaining his CDL, Denver International Airport was
“not accepting medical waivers.” Id.
After an unsuccessful attempt to identify another job to
reassign Plaintiff, ...