United States District Court, D. Colorado
Brooke Jackson Judge
BROOKE JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on review of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) Commissioner's
decision denying claimant Teddy Hatzenbuhler'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 AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
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 and whether the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. 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).
Substantial evidence requires “more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance.” Wall v.
Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009). 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
Hatzenbuhler is 66 years old and lives in Monument, Colorado.
See R. 1, 167. He served as a combat engineer in the
United States Army during the Vietnam War from October 1968
until he was honorably discharged in July 1971. R. 193, 286,
334. While in Vietnam, Mr. Hatzenbuhler experienced traumatic
events that led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”). R. 201, 283, 287. After the
war, Mr. Hatzenbuhler went on to complete two years of
college and earned a technical degree. R. 53, 219. His
post-college work history includes software and hardware
quality assurance work, employment as a software specialist,
and employment as a software engineer. R. 51-58, 91. Mr.
Hatzenbuhler was terminated from his most recent job on
November 30, 2010, the alleged onset date of his disability.
R. 65-66. He asserts that he suffers from the following
impairments: degenerative disc disease, obesity, anxiety,
depression, hypertension, sleep apnea, left ventricular
hypertrophy, headaches, hearing loss, plantar fasciitis,
gastro esophageal reflux disease, insomnia, Hepatitis C, and
diverticulitis. R. 98-102.
these impairments, Mr. Hatzenbuhler lives alone and is able
to handle most household chores and yard work on his own,
although he pays a housekeeper to periodically help around
the house. R. 26. He has several friends with whom he spends
time, and he leaves his house most days. Id. In
addition, Mr. Hatzenbuhler lifts weights five times per week
and is an avid motorcycle rider-for example, in November 2015
Mr. Hatzenbuhler and his friend rode their motorcycles to
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a trip totaling over 5, 000 miles. R.
March 17, 2014 Mr. Hatzenbuhler applied for disability
insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning on November
30, 2010. R. 167. His claim was initially denied on May 28,
2014. R. 107. Mr. Haztenbuhler then requested a hearing,
which was held before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Matthew C. Kawalek on December 16, 2015.
R. 44, 116-17. The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on
January 25, 2016. R. 19-38. The Appeals Council denied Mr.
Hatzenbuhler's request for review on March 27, 2017,
rendering the ALJ's determination the final decision of
the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. R. 1-7. Mr.
Hatzenbuhler then filed a timely appeal in this Court.
The ALJ's Decision.
issued an unfavorable decision after evaluating the evidence
according to the Social Security Administration's
standard five-step process. First, he found that Mr.
Hatzenbuhler had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since his alleged onset date of November 30, 2010 through the
date he was last insured, December 31, 2015. R. 24. At step
two, the ALJ found that Mr. Hatzenbuhler had the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease, obesity, anxiety,
and depression. R. 24-25. At step three, the ALJ concluded
that Mr. Hatzenbuhler did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 25-27.
then found that Mr. Hatzenbuhler retained the Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work, meaning he can stand or walk for six hours out of an
eight- hour workday, and sit for six hours out of an
eight-hour workday; he can lift and carry fifty pounds
occasionally, and twenty-five pounds frequently; he can
frequently climb, stoop, crouch, and crawl; he can
understand, remember, and carry out detailed but not complex
tasks and instructions; and he should have no more than
occasional interaction with the general public. R. 27-35.
four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Hatzenbuhler is unable to
perform any past relevant work. R. 35-36. However, at step
five the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Mr.
Hatzenbuhler can perform. R. 37. In particular, the ALJ
determined via a vocational expert that Mr. Hatzenbuhler
would be able to perform the job requirements of a meat
clerk, a plant ...