United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER AFFIRMING DEPUTY COMMISSIONER
E. BLACKBURN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter before me is plaintiff's Complaint [#1],
filed January 30, 2018, seeking review of the
Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff's claims
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. I have
jurisdiction to review the Deputy Commissioner's final
decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The matter has been
fully briefed, obviating the need for oral argument. I
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleges that she is disabled as a result of degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, knee osteoarthritis, and
obesity. After her applications for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income benefits were
denied, plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge. This hearing was held on December
6, 2016. At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was 50 years
old. She has a high school education and past relevant work
experience as a cashier and a home health aide. She has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 1,
2014, her alleged date of onset.
found plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled
to disability insurance benefits or supplemental security
income benefits. Although the medical evidence established
plaintiff suffered from severe impairments, the judge found
the severity of those impairments did not meet or equal any
impairment listed in the social security regulations. Other
impairments were found non-severe. The ALJ determined
plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a
reduced range of light work with postural limitations.
Because this determination did not preclude plaintiff's
past relevant work as a cashier, the ALJ found her not
disabled at step four of the sequential evaluation.
Alternatively, the ALJ found there were other jobs existing
in substantial numbers in the national and local economies
plaintiff could perform. He therefore also found her not
disabled at step five of the sequential evaluation. Plaintiff
appealed this decision to the Appeals Council. The Council
affirmed. Plaintiff then filed this action in federal court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act only if her physical and/or mental impairments preclude
her from performing both her previous work and any other
“substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2). “When a
claimant has one or more severe impairments the Social
Security [Act] requires the [Commissioner] to consider the
combined effects of the impairments in making a disability
determination.” Campbell v. Bowen, 822 F.2d
1518, 1521 (10th Cir. 1987) (citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(C)). However, the mere existence of a severe
impairment or combination of impairments does not require a
finding that an individual is disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act. To be disabling, the claimant's
condition must be so functionally limiting as to preclude any
substantial gainful activity for at least twelve consecutive
months. See Kelley v. Chater, 62 F.3d 335, 338
(10th Cir. 1995).
Deputy Commissioner has established a quinquepartite
sequential evaluation process for determining whether a
claimant is disabled:
1. The ALJ must first ascertain whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
working is not disabled regardless of the medical findings.
2. The ALJ must then determine whether the claimed impairment
is “severe.” A “severe impairment”
must significantly limit the claimant's physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities.
3. The ALJ must then determine if the impairment meets or
equals in severity certain impairments described in Appendix
1 of the regulations.
4. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a
listed impairment, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant can perform her past work despite any limitations.
5. If the claimant does not have the residual functional
capacity to perform her past work, the ALJ must decide
whether the claimant can perform any other gainful and
substantial work in the economy. This determination is made
on the basis of the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I)-(v).See also
Williams v. Bowen844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th
Cir. 1988). The claimant has the initial burden of
establishing a disability in the first four steps of this
analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5,
107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294 n.5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). The burden
then shifts to the Deputy Commissioner to show the claimant
is capable of performing work in the national economy.
Id. A finding that the claimant is disabled or not
disabled at any point in the five-step review is ...