United States District Court, D. Colorado
RAMONA L. SALAZAR, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE
LAW JUDGE DENYING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Ramona L.
Salazar's appeal of the Commissioner's decision
denying her claim for social security income (SSI).
Exercising jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this
Court affirms the decision of the Administrative Law Judge
Salazar applied for SSI on May 14, 2014. (Doc. # 11-2 at 15.)
On October 12, 2016, following a hearing, an ALJ denied Ms.
Salazar's claim, ultimately finding that she was not
under a “disability” as defined in Title II of
the Social Security Act. (Id. at 15-27.) Ms. Salazar
appealed the ALJ's denial, and the Appeals Council denied
her request for review, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-3.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the ALJ's final decision is limited in scope by
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “The court may not reweigh the
evidence or try the issues de novo or substitute its judgment
for that of the [ALJ].” Trimiar v. Sullivan,
966 F.2d 1326, 1329 (10th Cir. 1992). The district court may
not reverse an ALJ simply because it may have reached a
different result based on the record. Ellison v.
Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534, 536 (10th Cir. 1990).
this Court's limited role is to determine whether the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Angel v. Barnhart, 329 F.3d 1208, 1209 (10th Cir. 2003);
Trimiar, 966 F.2d at 1328-29. “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). A finding of
“‘no substantial evidence' will be found only
where there is a ‘conspicuous absence of credible
choices' or ‘no contrary medical
evidence.'” Trimiar, 966 F.2d at 1329.
Evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other
evidence or if it is actually mere conclusion. Williams
v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750 (10th Cir. 1988). Moreover,
the record must show the ALJ considered all the evidence, but
he need only discuss the evidence supporting his decision,
along with any “uncontroverted evidence he chooses not
to rely upon, as well as significantly probative evidence he
rejects.” Mays v. Colvin, 739 F.3d 569, 576
(10th Cir. 2014); Lykins v. Colvin, 657 Fed.Appx.
726, 727 (10th Cir. 2016)
to apply the correct legal standard is also grounds for
reversal. Byron v. Heckler, 742 F.2d 1232, 1235
(10th Cir. 1984). This Court must therefore determine whether
the ALJ's action is consistent with the Social Security
Act and the relevant regulations and case law.
Ellison, 929 F.2d at 536.
not every error in evaluating evidence or applying the
correct legal standard warrants reversal or remand. Courts
may not reverse and remand for failure to comply with a
regulation without first considering whether the error was
harmless. Allen v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1140, 1145
(10th Cir. 2004). The standard for harmless error requires a
finding that, considering the evidence before the ALJ, the
Court can “confidently say that no reasonable
administrative factfinder, following the correct analysis,
could have resolved the factual matter in any other
way.” Id.; see also Armijo v. Astrue,
385 Fed.Appx. 789, 792 (10th Cir. 2010); Lynn P. v.
Berryhill, No. 17-CV-212-JFJ, 2018 WL 3142937, at *3
(N.D. Okla. June 27, 2018). Where the court “can follow
the [ALJ's] reasoning in conducting [its] review, and can
determine that correct legal standards have been applied,
merely technical omissions in the ALJ's reasoning do not
dictate reversal.” Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue,
695 F.3d 1156, 1166 (10th Cir. 2012)
is defined in the Social Security Act as the “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment. . .
.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Act further
“[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 work which exists in the national economy. . .
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). The claimant bears the burden
of proving that he is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a);
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1062 (10th Cir.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). The steps of the
evaluation are whether: (1) the claimant is currently
working; (2) the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) the
claimant's impairment meets an impairment listed in
Appendix 1 of the relevant regulation; (4) the impairment
precludes the claimant from doing her past relevant work; and
(5) the impairment precludes the claimant from doing any
work. See 20 CFR 404.1512(g), 404.1560(c),
416.912(g), and 416.960(c); Pisciotta v.
Astrue, 500 F.3d 1074, 1076 (10th Cir. 2007). A finding
that a claimant is or is not disabled at any point in the
five-step evaluation process is conclusive and terminates the
analysis. Casias v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Serv., 933 F.2d 799, 801 (10th Cir. 1991).
case, the ALJ proceeded through the first three steps in the
sequential process. The ALJ concluded that Ms. Salazar (1)
had “not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any
time pertinent to this decision”; (2) suffered from
“the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of
the lumbar spine; obesity; affective disorder; anxiety; and
personality disorder”; and (3) did not have an
“impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments.” (Doc. # 11-2 at 17-18.)
addressing the fourth step, the ALJ assessed Ms.
Salazar's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
concluded that Ms. Salazar had the RFC to perform “less
than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
416.967(b).” (Id. at 20.) The ALJ added:
[Ms. Salazar] can occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and
frequently lift and carry 10 pounds. She can stand and walk
for six hours total out of an eight-hour workday and sit for
six hours total out of an eight-hour workday. Moreover, the
claimant can occasionally bend, squat, and kneel. She cannot
perform any complex tasks. Further, [Ms. Salazar] can perform
unskilled jobs, with a SVP of two or less. ...