United States District Court, D. Colorado
ROBERT A. NAPPI, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
T. Varholak United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Robert A. Nappi's
Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner of Social
Security's decision denying Plaintiff's application
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act (“SSA”), 42
U.S.C. § 401 et seq. [#1] The parties have both
consented to proceed before this Court for all proceedings,
including the entry of final judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c) and D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.2. [#14] The Court has
jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court has carefully
considered the Complaint [#1], the Social Security
Administrative Record [#10], the parties' briefing
[##17-19], and the applicable case law, and has determined
that oral argument would not materially assist in the
disposition of this appeal. For the following reasons, the
Court REVERSES the Commissioner's
decision and REMANDS for further
Five-Step Process for Determining Disability
Social Security Act defines disability as the inability
“to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A); Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084
(10th Cir. 2007). “This twelve-month duration
requirement applies to the claimant's inability to engage
in any substantial gainful activity, and not just his
underlying impairment.” Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084.
“In determining whether an individual's physical or
mental impairment or impairments are of a sufficient medical
severity that such impairment or impairments could be the
basis of eligibility . . ., the Commissioner [ ] shall
consider the combined effect of all of the individual's
impairments without regard to whether any such impairment, if
considered separately, would be of such severity.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B).
Commissioner is required to follow a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is
disabled.” Hackett v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168,
1171 (10th Cir. 2005). The five-step inquiry is as follows:
1. The Commissioner first determines whether the
claimant's work activity, if any, constitutes substantial
2. If not, the Commissioner then considers the medical
severity of the claimant's mental and physical
impairments to determine whether any impairment or
combination of impairments is
3. If so, the Commissioner then must consider whether any of
the severe impairment(s) meet or exceed a listed impairment
in the appendix of the regulations;
4. If not, the Commissioner next must determine whether the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”)-i.e., the functional capacity
the claimant retains despite his impairments-is sufficient to
allow the claimant to perform his past relevant work, if any;
5. If not, the Commissioner finally must determine whether
the claimant's RFC, age, education and work experience
are sufficient to permit the claimant to perform other work
in the national economy.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005);
Bailey v. Berryhill, 250 F.Supp.3d 782, 784 (D.
Colo. 2017). The claimant bears the burden of establishing a
prima facie case of disability at steps one through
four, after which the burden shifts to the Commissioner at
step five to show that the claimant retains the ability to
perform work in the national economy. Wells v.
Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1064 n.1 (10th Cir. 2013);
Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084. “A finding that the
claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point in the
five-step review is conclusive and terminates the
analysis.” Ryan v. Colvin, 214 F.Supp.3d 1015,
1018 (D. Colo. 2016) (citing Casias v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 801 (10th Cir.
Standard of Review
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the Court's
review is limited to a determination of “whether the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether
her factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence.” Vallejo v. Berryhill, 849 F.3d 951,
954 (10th Cir. 2017) (citing Nguyen v. Shalala, 43
F.3d 1400, 1402 (10th Cir. 1994)). “With regard to the
law, reversal may be appropriate when [the Commissioner]
either applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to
demonstrate reliance on the correct legal standards.”
Bailey, 250 F.Supp.3d at 784 (citing Winfrey v.
Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir.1996)).
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more
than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.”
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084). “Evidence is
not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the
record or constitutes mere conclusion.”
Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261-62 (quoting Musgrave v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992)). The
Court must “meticulously examine the record as a whole,
including anything that may undercut or detract from the
[Commissioner's] findings in order to determine if the
substantiality test has been met.'” Flaherty v.
Astrue, 515 ...