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 January 13,
2017, 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 supplemental security
income benefits pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. On
February 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Opening Brief [#15]
(the “Brief”). Defendant filed a Response [#16]
in opposition. No Reply was filed. 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
Factual and Procedural Background
alleges that she became disabled on August 31, 2001. Tr.
On December 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental security income under Title XVI. Tr. 12. On
October 9, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 20.
determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”) since December 10, 2013,
the application date. Tr. 14. The ALJ found that Plaintiff
suffers from one severe impairment, i.e., degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine with disc herniation and
radiculopathy. Tr. 14. However, the ALJ also found that
Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments which meets or medically equals “the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and
416.926).” Tr. 15. The ALJ next concluded that
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with the following
[S]he is unable to climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. She
can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. She can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid
hazards, such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving
machinery. She cannot perform fast-paced production work. She
can only use foot petals bilaterally on an occasional basis.
She requires a sit/stand option meaning that she is able to
sit for a period of up to thirty minutes and then she has to
get up to stretch for five to ten minutes prior to sitting
down without leaving the work station.
Tr. 15. Based on the RFC and the testimony of an impartial
vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had no past relevant work, but found that there are
jobs which exist in significant numbers in the national
economy which Plaintiff can perform, including the
representative occupations of office helper and cashier. Tr.
19-20. The ALJ therefore found Plaintiff not disabled at step
five of the sequential evaluation. Tr. 20. The ALJ's
decision has become the final decision of the Commissioner
for purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
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 Fed.Appx. 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).