United States District Court, D. Colorado
A. BRIMMER United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on the Complaint [Docket No. 1]
filed by plaintiff Terri Coleman on April 23, 2016. Plaintiff
seeks review of the final decision of defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill (the “Commissioner”) denying her claim
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33. The
Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final
decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
3, 2013, plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of
the Act. R. at 10. Plaintiff alleged that she had been
disabled since April 4, 2013. Id. After an initial
administrative denial of her claim, plaintiff received a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on October 30, 2014. Id. On
November 21, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying
plaintiff's claim. Id. at 10-24. The ALJ found
that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: mild
neurological disorder, adjustment disorder with depressed
mood, and mild degenerative disc disease within the lumbar
spine with additional references to sciatica. Id. at
12-13. The ALJ concluded that these impairments, alone or in
combination, did not meet one of the regulations' listed
impairments, id. at 14, and found that plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b). The claimant is able to lift, carry, push and/or
pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The
claimant is able to stand and/or walk about six hours out of
an eight-hour workday. The claimant has no limitations
regarding sitting. The claimant is able to frequently climb
ramps and stairs as well as balance. The claimant does not
require the use of an assistive device for ambulation. The
claimant should not work around hazardous heights or climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant cannot be required
to operate machinery involving dangerous mechanical parts.
The claimant is able to understand, remember and carry out
tasks learned in up to six months.
Id. at 16. Based upon this RFC, the ALJ concluded
that plaintiff was incapable of performing her past relevant
work as a substance abuse counselor. Id. at 21.
However, the ALJ, in reliance on the testimony of a
vocational expert (“VE”), concluded that
plaintiff had the RFC to perform the requirements of office
helper, ticket taker, and mail clerk. Id. at 22.
March 2, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's denial of her claim.
Id. at 1. Given the Appeals Council's denial,
the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the
Standard of Review
of the Commissioner's finding that a claimant is not
disabled is limited to determining whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal standards and whether the decision
is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Angel v. Barnhart, 329 F.3d 1208, 1209
(10th Cir. 2003). The district court may not reverse an ALJ
simply because the court may have reached a different result
based on the record; the question instead is whether there is
substantial evidence showing that the ALJ was justified in
her decision. See Ellison v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534,
536 (10th Cir. 1990). “Substantial evidence is more
than a mere scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d
1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007). Moreover, “[e]vidence is
not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the
record or constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992). The
district court will not “reweigh the evidence or retry
the case, ” but must “meticulously examine the
record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or
detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.”
Flaherty, 515 F.3d at 1070. Nevertheless,
“if the ALJ failed to apply the correct legal test,
there is a ground for reversal apart from a lack of
substantial evidence.” Thompson v. Sullivan,
987 F.2d 1482, 1487 (10th Cir. 1993).
The Five-Step Evaluation Process
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must have a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected
to result in death or last for a continuous period of twelve
months that prevents the claimant from performing any
substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)-(2). Furthermore,
[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability
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 economy, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A) (2006). The Commissioner has
established a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520; Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750 ...