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Lopez v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 4, 2018

VESTA ANN LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING DISABILITY DETERMINATION

          MARCIA S. KRIEGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court as an appeal from the Commissioner's Final Administrative Decision (“Decision”) determining that the Plaintiff Vesta Ann Lopez is not disabled within the meaning of sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Having considered all of the documents filed, including the record (#10), the Court now finds and concludes as follows:

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Ms. Lopez protectively filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act in October 2014. The state agency denied her claim. She requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who issued an unfavorable decision. Ms. Lopez appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. Ms. Lopez timely appealed to this Court, which reviews the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final denial of benefits. Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 759 (10th Cir. 2003).

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The Court offers a brief summary of the facts here and elaborates as necessary in its analysis below. Ms. Lopez was born in 1961. She was 54 years old as of her amended alleged disability onset date, April 8, 2016. She has a high school education and has reported attending two years of college. She has worked in the past as a furniture assembler, machine operator, injection mold machinery operator, and bindery worker. The medical record reflects that she has reported back and hip pain dating to approximately 2007. She has also reported swelling in her legs, has had surgery to both legs related to varicose veins, and has reported other medical impairments and conditions as identified below. Ms. Lopez protectively applied for DIB on October 15, 2014, initially alleging disability beginning in February 2011. At the hearing before the ALJ, acting through her attorney, she amended her alleged disability onset date to April 8, 2016.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         In adjudicating Ms. Lopez's DIB application, the ALJ found that Ms. Lopez last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on June 30, 2016.

         The ALJ then analyzed Ms. Lopez's application pursuant to the sequential five-step inquiry. At step one, the ALJ found Ms. Lopez did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date, April 8, 2016, through her date last insured, June 30, 2016. At step two, the ALJ found Ms. Lopez had the following severe impairments through the date last insured: lumbar spine degenerative disc disease and facet osteoarthritis; obesity; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); obstructive sleep apnea; varicose veins; and herpes. At step three, the ALJ found Ms. Lopez did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the severity of a listed impairment.

         The ALJ then assessed Ms. Lopez's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). The ALJ's analysis reviewed the medical records at length, noting they included only two examinations after Ms. Lopez's amended alleged disability onset date, but that the ALJ had reviewed all of the available medical evidence. (#10 at 20). The ALJ addressed each of Ms. Lopez's demonstrated impairments and concluded that while her medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause some of her alleged symptoms, that her statements regarding the intensity and limiting effects of her symptoms were not entirely consistent with the evidence. The ALJ found the objective medical evidence did not support Ms. Lopez's alleged pain or its limiting effects.

         The RFC determination also considered the opinion of a consulting examiner, Dr. Ryan Parsons, M.D., who had opined on Ms. Lopez's various functional limitations. Id. at 24. The ALJ gave “great weight” to Dr. Parsons's opinion, and consistent with the limitations noted by Dr. Parsons, the ALJ determined that that through her date last insured, Ms. Lopez:

had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in [20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c)] except [Ms. Lopez] could stand and walk three hours at a time for a total eight hours during an eight-hour workday. [Ms. Lopez] could sit without limitations. [Ms. Lopez] could occasionally lift and carry seventy-five pounds and frequently lift and carry fifty pounds. [Ms. Lopez] could frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, climb, and balance.

Id. at 19. Given this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Lopez was capable of performing her past relevant work, including as a furniture assembler, machine operator, injection mold machinery operator, and bindery worker. Id. at 25. Given this finding, the ALJ found that during the relevant period, Ms. Lopez was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. Id. at 27.

         ISSUES ...


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