United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
S. KRIEGER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Complaint (# 1), the Plaintiff's Opening
Brief (# 23), the Defendant's Response
(# 25), and the Plaintiff's Reply
(# 26). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision
of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Lanoue seeks judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner denying her claim for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act. In October
2014, Ms. Lanoue filed for DIB, claiming she became disabled
in August 2011. Tr. at 136-37. The date that she was last
insured for DIB was September 30, 2014. Tr. at 30. Her
application was denied at all administrative levels and she
now appeals to this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
time of her alleged onset of disability, Ms. Lanoue was 41
years old. Tr. at 136. She was previously employed as a
cashier, paper deliverer, and sales stocker. Tr. at 150, 182.
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on
October 26, 2016. Tr. at 40. After the initial formalities,
the ALJ told Ms. Lanoue's counsel to “go ahead and
develop your client's testimony for the record”.
Tr. at 43. Counsel asked Ms. Lanoue about her impairments,
medications, and activities of daily living. Tr. at 43-54.
The ALJ interrupted at one point to clarify whether counsel
was asking about Ms. Lanoue's current limitations or
limitations as of her date last insured. Tr. at 49. Counsel
replied that the questions were about her current
limitations. Before finishing the hearing with a few
questions for the vocational expert, the ALJ asked Ms. Lanoue
two questions about whether she had a GED. Tr. at 54-55.
The ALJ's Decision
January 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision to Ms.
Lanoue. Tr. at 28-35. At step one, the ALJ found that Ms.
Lanoue had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from
August 10, 2011, through her date last insured of September
30, 2014. Tr. at 30. At step two, the ALJ found that Ms.
Lanoue had the following severe impairments: disc bulge of
the thoracic spine, leukocytosis, and obesity. Tr. at 30. At
step three, he found that Ms. Lanoue had no impairment that
met or medically equaled the presumptively disabling
conditions listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Appendix 1. Tr. at
32. The ALJ found that Ms. Lanoue had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform the full range of light work. Tr.
at 33. At step four, the ALJ found that Ms. Lanoue was unable
to perform her past relevant work as a sales clerk and
cashier. Tr. at 35. The ALJ did not make alternative findings
at step five.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Court's review is de novo, the Court must uphold the
Commissioner's decision if it is free from legal error
and the Commissioner's factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence. See Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart,
431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is
evidence a reasonable person would accept to support a
conclusion, requiring “more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d
1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007). The Court may not reweigh the
evidence, but it looks to the entire record to determine if
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
decision. Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th