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Johnson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 10, 2018

MICHAEL JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LEWIS T. BABCOCK, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Michael Johnson appeals Defendant's (the “Commissioner”) final administrative decision denying his claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”) and for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act. Jurisdiction in this appeal is proper pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Oral argument would not materially assist in the determination of this appeal. After consideration of the briefs and the record, I affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Statement of the Case

         Following a hearing, Plaintiff's disability claim was denied in a decision dated December 28, 2016. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review thereby rendering the ALJ's December 28, 2016 decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of my review. Plaintiff timely filed this appeal seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision.

         II. Statement of Facts

         A. Plaintiff's Disability Hearing

         At the December 5, 2016 hearing on Plaintiff's disability claim, Plaintiff testified that he was seeking disability benefits because of his bipolar disorder which caused severe mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, suicidal ideations, frustration, anger, and paranoia. AR 55. Plaintiff further testified that he suffered from abdominal pain that limited his mobility, including his lifting capabilities. AR 59-61.

         The VE identified Plaintiff's past work as a clothing salesperson and a coffee shop counter attendant. AR 63-4. The ALJ asked the VE if a person with Plaintiff's work history who could perform work at all exertional levels but was limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with only occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers and only incidental interaction with the public could perform Plaintiff's past work. AR 64. The VE responded no but opined that such an individual could work as a hand packager, store laborer, and industrial cleaner. If the individual was further limited to work at the light exertional level, the VE opined that the individual could work as a housekeeping cleaner, routing clerk, and small products assembler. AR 65-6. If the individual could have no contact with the public or coworkers, the VE opined that the individual would be limited to working as a night cleaner. AR 66-7. The VE further testified that employers generally do not tolerate employees being off task more than 10-15% of the workday. AR 66.

         B. The ALJ's Decision

         In his December 28, 2016 decision, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential process outlined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a). At the first step of the sequential process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability onset date of September 25, 2014. AR 34. At the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had impairments of status-post colosotmy and reversal, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder. Id. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. AR 298.

         The ALJ next concluded that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) but was limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; no more than occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers; and no more than incidental interaction with the public. AR 37. Based on the VE's hearing testimony, the ALJ then found that Plaintiff was capable of performing jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy and was therefore was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. AR 42-3.

         III. Standard of Review

         In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, I must determine whether substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports the factual findings and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 26 F.3d 1027, 1028 (10th Cir. 1992); Hamilton v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 961 F.2d 1495, 1497-98 (10th Cir. 1992). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Hamilton, supra, 961 F.2d at 1498. I “may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [my] discretion for that of the Administrative Law Judge.” Kelley v. Chater, 62 F.3d 335, 337 (10th Cir. 1995).

         IV. ...


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