United States District Court, D. Colorado
PAT R. CORRAL, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING DEPUTY COMMISSIONER
E. Blackburn United States District Judge
matter before me is plaintiff's Complaint [#1],
filed May 16, 2017, seeking review of the Deputy
Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff's claim for
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. I
have jurisdiction to review the Deputy Commissioner's
final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The matter has
been fully briefed, obviating the need for oral argument. I
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleges that he is disabled as a result of a right knee
disorder, chronic liver disease, a history of traumatic brain
injury with associated headaches and dizziness, a seizure
disorder, anxiety, and affective disorder. After his
application for supplemental security income benefits was
denied, plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge. This hearing was held on July 29,
2015. At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was 36 years old.
He has a high school education and past relevant work
experience as a case packer, food sorter, and newspaper
carrier. He has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since at least June 27, 2013, the date of his application for
found plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled
to supplemental security income benefits. Although the
evidence established plaintiff's right knee disorder and
chronic liver disease constituted severe impairments, the
judge concluded the severity of those impairments did not
meet or equal any impairment listed in the social security
regulations. The remainder of plaintiff's other alleged
impairments were found to be non-severe. The ALJ concluded
plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a
full range of medium work with no environmental, postural,
manipulative, or non-exertional restrictions. Because this
finding did not preclude plaintiff's past relevant work,
the ALJ found him not disabled at step four of the sequential
evaluation. Alternatively, the ALJ concluded there were jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national and local
economies he could perform. He therefore also found plaintiff
not disabled at step five. Plaintiff appealed this decision
to the Appeals Council. The Council affirmed. Plaintiff then
filed this action in federal court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act only if his physical and/or mental impairments preclude
him from performing both his previous work and any other
“substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2). “When a
claimant has one or more severe impairments the Social
Security [Act] requires the [Deputy 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 Social Security 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. 1995).
Deputy Commissioner has established a quinquepartite
sequential evaluation process for determining whether a
claimant is disabled:
1. The ALJ must first ascertain whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
working is not disabled regardless of the medical findings.
2. The ALJ must then determine whether the claimed impairment
is “severe.” A “severe impairment”
must significantly limit the claimant's physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities.
3. The ALJ must then determine if the impairment meets or
equals in severity certain impairments described in Appendix
1 of the regulations.
4. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a
listed impairment, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant can perform his past work despite any limitations.
5. If the claimant does not have the residual functional
capacity to perform his past work, the ALJ must decide
whether the claimant can perform any other gainful and
substantial work in the economy. This determination is made
on the basis of the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). See also Williams
v. Bowen844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir.
1988). The claimant has the initial burden of establishing a
disability in the first four steps of this analysis.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5, 107 S.Ct.
2287, 2294 n.5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). The burden then shifts
to the Deputy Commissioner to show the claimant is capable of
performing work in the national economy. Id. A
finding that the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any
point in the five-step review is ...