United States District Court, D. Colorado
Kristen L. Mix, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record [#11],  filed June 17,
2016, in support of Plaintiff's Complaint [#1] seeking
review of the decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
(“Defendant” or “Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance
benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. On August
11, 2016, Plaintiff filed an Opening Brief [#18] (the
“Brief”). Defendant filed a Response [#19] in
opposition, and Plaintiff filed a Reply [#24]. The Court has
jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). The Court
has reviewed the entire case file and the applicable law and
is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set
forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is
REVERSED and REMANDED.
alleges that she became disabled at the age of fifty-seven on
May 1, 2011. Tr. 15, 24. On October 26, 2012, Plaintiff filed an
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II.
Tr. 15. On May 9, 2014, an Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 25.
determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
of the Act through December 31, 2015, and that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”) since May 1, 2011, the alleged onset
date. Tr. 17. The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from two
severe impairments: (1) “osteoarthritis of the
bilateral knees status post arthroscopies” and (2)
“lumbar disorder status post laminectomy.” Tr.
17. However, the ALJ also found that these impairments,
individually or in combination, do not meet or medically
equal “the severity of one of the listed impairments in
20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d),
404.1525, 404.1526).” Tr. 18-19. The ALJ next concluded
that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as follows:
[S]he can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently, sit 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, stand
and/or walk 6 hours in an 8 hour workday and push/pull within
stated lift/carry limitations. She can occasionally operate
foot and hand controls and reach overhead. The claimant can
frequently handle, finger, and feel. She can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb ladders and
scaffolds. She cannot kneel and crawl or work at unprotected
heights or with vibrating tools.
Tr. 19. Based on the RFC and the testimony of an impartial
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that
Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work as an
electronics assembler or as a furniture cleaner, but that she
was able to perform other work, including the representative
occupation of semi-conductor assembler. Tr.24-25. She
therefore found Plaintiff not disabled at step five of the
sequential evaluation. Tr. 25. The ALJ's decision has
become the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of
judicial review. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
to the Act:
[T]he Social Security Administration is authorized to pay
disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security
Income to persons who have a “disability.” A
person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such
benefits, “only if his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22 (2003)
(quoting 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(B)). Under the applicable legal standard, a
claimant is disabled if he or she is unable “to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . .
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(a); see also Wall v.
Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a)). The existence of a qualifying
disabling impairment must be demonstrated by “medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic”
findings. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 423(d)(5)(A).
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.” Campbell v. Bowen, 822 F.2d
1518, 1521 (10th Cir. 1987) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(2)(C)). 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 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.
See Kelley v. Chater, 62 F.3d 335, 338 (10th Cir.
Court reviews a final decision by the Commissioner by
examining the administrative record and determining
“whether the [ALJ's] factual findings are supported
by substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct
legal standards were applied.” Wilson v.
Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1140 (10th Cir. 2010). However,
the Court “may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency.”
Harper v. Colvin, 528 F. App'x 887, 890 (10th
Cir. 2013) (quoting Barnett v. Apfel, 231 F.3d 687,
689 (10th Cir. 2000)). In other words, the Court does not
reexamine the issues de novo. Sisco v. U.S. Dep't of
Health & Human Servs., 10 F.3d 739, 741 (10th Cir.
1993). Thus, even when some evidence could support contrary
findings, the Court “may not displace the agency's
choice between two fairly conflicting views, ” even if
the Court may have “made a different choice had the
matter been before it de novo.” Oldham v.
Astrue, 509 F.3d 1254, 1257-58 (10th Cir. 2007).