United States District Court, D. Colorado
MORGAN B. WALTHER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [*] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Brooke Jackson United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on review of the Social Security
Administration Commissioner's decision denying claimant
Morgan B. Walther's application for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.
Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the
reasons explained below, the Court reverses and remands the
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. 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).
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
A. Medical Background.
Walther is 45 years old. See R. 32. He has a
bachelor's degree and lives in Cortez, Colorado.
Id. Prior to filing for disability in 2013, Mr.
Walther worked at Wal-Mart for nearly twenty years. R. 25.
While there, he worked as a department manager, night
receiver, stocker, cash office employee, and cashier.
Walther alleges that he became disabled on July 2, 2013. R.
151. He quit his job because he was having asthma attacks
with such frequency that he was “missing more work than
he was there.” R. 25. He claims that these asthma
attacks were brought on when his job requirements as a
cashier required too much physical exertion. Id.
respiratory issues are exacerbated by his weight. R. 42. At
the time of the hearing before the ALJ, Mr. Walther weighed
492 pounds and had a body mass index of 70.6. See
id. Tasks such as walking, sitting, standing, and
reaching are painful for Mr. Walther because of his morbid
obesity. R. 51.
addition to asthma and morbid obesity, both parties agree
that Mr. Walther suffers from lumbar spine degeneration. R.
21. Mr. Walther additionally purports to suffer from sleep
apnea, acid reflux, high blood pressure, borderline type 2
diabetes, gout, and depression. R. 21- 22. He claims to have
pain in his hips, knees, ankles and feet. R. 22.
Walther has been a patient at Dr. Hope Barkhurst's
general practice since 2004. R. 178. During appointments, Mr.
Walther would generally meet with nurse practitioner
Brown-Sanchez (“N.P. Brown-Sanchez”), and then
Dr. Barkhurst would “sign off on” the treatment
plans created by N.P. Brown-Sanchez. R. 302, 305, 308, 314,
316, 319, 323, 326, 327, 328, 330, 333, 334, 376, 369, 372,
375. This posture occurred over seventeen times since 2004.
Id. However, Dr. Barkhurst personally treated Mr.
Walther at least twice during this time. R. 309- 312.
preparation for his hearing before the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), Mr. Walther sent a medical source
statement to Dr. Barkhurst and N.P. Brown-Sanchez for
completion. R. 403-406. N.P. Brown-Sanchez filled out the
statement, noting with specificity Mr. Walther's physical
limitations in the employment context. Id. Dr.
Barkhurst signed and dated this medical source statement. R.
Walther applied for disability insurance benefits on July 15,
2013. R. 151. His application was initially denied on January
30, 2014. R. 81-83. Mr. Walther requested reconsideration,
and a video hearing was held before ALJ William Musseman on
May 6, 2015. R. 19, 103. The ALJ issued a decision denying
benefits on May 28, 2015. R. 16-37. Mr. Walther timely
appealed the decision to the Appeals Council. R. 15. The
Appeals Council denied his request for review, rendering the
ALJ's denial of ...