United States District Court, D. Colorado
T. BABCOCK, JUDGE.
Michael Roland appeals the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“SSA”) denying
his application for disability insurance benefits under Title
II Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 31 et seq.
I have considered the parties' briefs (ECF Nos. 14-16)
and the administrative record (ECF No. 10)
(“AR”). Oral argument would not materially assist
me in determining this appeal.
Roland argues the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred when
she determined there were jobs in substantial numbers that he
could perform, when she applied the Medical Vocational
Guidelines (the Grid rules), and when she evaluated the
opinion of his treating physician. As I describe below, I
discern no error by the ALJ. I accordingly AFFIRM the
decision of SSA.
2013, Mr. Roland filed an application for disability
insurance benefits with SSA, alleging disability beginning
November 11, 2009. AR 151-57. After SSA initially denied his
claim, AR 80-95, Mr. Roland requested a hearing before an
ALJ, AR 99. The hearing took place on April 13, 2015. AR
35-78. On May 14, 2015, the ALJ denied Mr. Roland's
claim, concluding he was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act. AR 14-34. Mr. Roland asked SSA's
Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision. AR 7-13. On
November 9, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, AR 1-6,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of SSA,
see Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 759 (10th Cir.
2003). On December 16, 2016, Mr. Roland timely filed this
appeal. (ECF No. 1.) I have jurisdiction pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
SSA's Five-Step Process for Determining Whether a
Claimant Is “Disabled”
claimant is “disabled” under Title II of the
Social Security Act if he is unable to “engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). SSA has
established a five-step sequential evaluation process for
determining whether a claimant is disabled and thus entitled
to benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
one, SSA asks whether the claimant is presently engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” If he is,
benefits are denied and the inquiry stops. §
404.1520(b). At step two, SSA asks whether the claimant has a
“severe impairment”-that is, an impairment or
combination of impairments that “significantly limits
[his] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” § 404.1520(c). If he does not,
benefits are denied and the inquiry stops. If he does, SSA
moves on to step three, where it determines whether the
claimant's impairment(s) “meet or equal” one
of the “listed impairments”-impairments so severe
that SSA has determined that a claimant who has them is
conclusively disabled without regard to the claimant's
age, education, or work experience. § 404.1520(d). If
not, SSA goes to step four. At step four, SSA determines the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”)-that is, what he is still able to do
despite his impairments, and asks whether the claimant can do
any of his “past relevant work” given that RFC.
§ 404.1520(e). If not, SSA goes to the fifth and final
step, where it has the burden of showing that the
claimant's RFC allows him to do other work in the
national economy in view of his age, education, and work
experience. § 404.1520(g). At this step, SSA's Grid
rules may mandate a finding of disabled or not disabled
without further analysis based on the claimant's age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 2. In contrast with step five, the claimant has
“the burden of establishing a prima facie case of
disability at steps one through four.” Doyal,
331 F.3d at 760.
Standard for Reviewing SSA's Decision
review is limited to determining whether SSA applied the
correct legal standards and whether its decision is supported
by substantial evidence in the record. Williamson v.
Barnhart, 350 F.3d 1097, 1098 (10th Cir. 2003). With
regard to the law, reversal may be appropriate when SSA
either applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to
demonstrate reliance on the correct legal standards. See
Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir. 1996).
With regard to the evidence, I must “determine whether
the findings of fact . . . are based upon substantial
evidence, and inferences reasonably drawn therefrom. If they
are so supported, they are conclusive upon the reviewing
court and may not be disturbed.” Trujillo v.
Richardson, 429 F.2d 1149, 1150 (10th Cir. 1970).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance; it is such evidence that a
reasonable mind might accept to support the
conclusion.” Campbell v. Bowen, 822 F.2d 1518,
1521 (10th Cir. 1987) (citing Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The record must demonstrate that
the ALJ considered all of the evidence, but an ALJ is not
required to discuss every piece of evidence. Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10 (10th Cir. 1996). I may
not reweigh the evidence or substitute my judgment for that
of the ALJ. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human
Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991).
The ALJ's Decision
followed the five-step analysis outlined above. At step one,
the ALJ found that Mr. Roland had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity from his alleged onset date of November 11,
2009, and met the insured requirements of the Social Security
Act through December, 31, 2014. AR 19. At step two, the ALJ
found Mr. Roland had several severe impairments: L3-L4
degenerative disc disease, left hip osteoarthritis and
bursitis, right shoulder articular surface tear, left
shoulder tendinosis, right thumb CMC joint arthritis, and
status post left thumb arthroplasty and revision.
Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded that Mr.
Roland's impairments did not meet or equal any of the