United States District Court, D. Colorado
KIMBERLY S. GRANDUSKY, 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, 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 affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleges she is disabled as a result of lumbar degenerative
disc disease, a cervical spine disorder, a left shoulder
impairment, a left knee impairment, insomnia,
gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”), fatty
liver disease, obesity, anxiety, colic, depression, and an
affective disorder. After her application for supplemental
security income benefits was denied, plaintiff requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge. This hearing was
held on September 10, 2015. At the time of the hearing,
plaintiff was 35 years old. She has a high school education
and past relevant work experience as a certified nurse
assistant and a security guard. She has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since at least May 13, 2013, the
date of her application for benefits.
found plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled
to supplemental security income benefits. Although the
evidence established plaintiff's degenerative disc
disease, shoulder impairment, knee arthritis, and affective
disorder 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 or to not meet the durational
requirements of the regulations. The ALJ concluded plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced
range of light, unskilled work with certain postural and
manipulative restrictions. Although this finding precluded
plaintiff's past relevant work, the ALJ found there were
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national and
local economies she 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 her physical and/or mental impairments preclude
her from performing both her 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 her past work despite any limitations.
5. If the claimant does not have the residual functional
capacity to perform her 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 ...