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Houser v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 9, 2017

WHITNEY HOUSER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge.

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

         For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Houser was born on September 13, 1962, and was 47 years old on the alleged onset date of June 7, 2010. (Administrative Record (“R.”) (ECF No. 11) at 86.) Houser graduated from high school, completed two years of college, attended an electrician's trade school, and served in the United States Navy for approximately three years. (R. at 2792.) In the last fifteen years, she has worked as an electrician. (R. at 89.)

         Houser applied for disability benefits and supplemental security income on October 30, 2014. (R. at 86.) Houser claimed that she is disabled due to the following conditions: back pain, traumatic brain injury, and torn rotator cuffs in both the left and right shoulders. (Id.) Her application was denied on February 24, 2015. (R. at 110.) Houser requested and received a hearing in front of an ALJ, Terrence Hugar. (R. at 15.) On February 1, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process.[2]

         At step one, the ALJ found that Houser had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 7, 2010. (R. at 23.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that Houser suffered from

the following severe impairments: degenerative disc and joint disease associated with the spinal column; bilateral rotator cuff tendinopathy; diabetes mellitus; mood disorder; cognitive disorder related to a December 2013 traumatic brain injury; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and a history of alcohol abuse.

(Id. (citations omitted).)

         At step three, the ALJ found that Houser's impairments, while severe, did not meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed in the Social Security regulations. (R. at 24-27.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Houser's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). The ALJ concluded that Houser has the RFC

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the work should be with occasional posturals[3] except for no crawling or climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant should have no exposure to hazards, such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. There should be no operation of motor vehicles. The claimant is limited to frequent reaching in all directions except overhead reaching which is limited to occasional. The claimant can never overhead lift more than 10 pounds. The claimant is limited to frequent pushing and pulling. The claimant must be limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks. The tasks must entail no more than occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers and the public.

(R. at 27.) Then, at step four, the ALJ concluded that Houser could not perform her past relevant work as an electrician. (R. at 36.)

         At step five, the ALJ found that Houser's RFC permitted her to work as a small parts assembler, of which there are 1, 800 jobs in Colorado and 191, 000 jobs in the United States; and as a conveyor line bakery worker, of which there are 760 ...


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