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Lanoue v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 30, 2019

JULIE ANNE LANOUE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          MARCIA S. KRIEGER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS 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.

         I. JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Julie 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. § 405(g).

         B. The Hearing

         At the 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.

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         In 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.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Though 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 Cir. 2009).

         IV. ...


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