United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER
E. Blackburn United States District Judge
matter before me is plaintiff's
Complaint [#1],  filed May 4, 2018, seeking
review of the Commissioner's decision denying
plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401,
et seq. I have jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The matter has been fully briefed, obviating the need
for oral argument. I affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleges he is disabled as a result of multiple sclerosis,
thoracic scoliosis, a seizure disorder, obesity, sleep apnea,
mononeuritis, and depression. After his application for
disability insurance benefits was denied, plaintiff requested
a hearing before an administrative law judge. That hearing
was held on March 8, 2017. At the time of this hearing,
plaintiff was 48 years old. He has a high school education
and past relevant work experience as a composite shredder
operator, customer service manager, surveyor helper, and
street maintenance worker. He did not engage in substantial
gainful activity between October 4, 2014, his alleged date of
onset, and December 31, 2014, his date last
found plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled
to disability insurance benefits. Although the evidence
established plaintiff suffered from several severe
impairments, the judge concluded the severity of those
impairments did not meet or equal any impairment listed in
the social security regulations. Other alleged impairments,
most specifically obesity and depression, were found to be
non-severe. The ALJ found plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform a reduced range of sedentary
work with certain postural and environmental restrictions.
Although that conclusion precluded plaintiff's past
relevant work, the ALJ found there were other jobs existing
in substantial numbers in the national and local economies he
could perform. She therefore found plaintiff 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 his physical and/or mental impairments preclude
him from performing both his 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).
Commissioner has established a quinquepartite sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
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 his past work despite any limitations.
5. If the claimant does not have the residual functional
capacity to perform his 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(b)-(f). See also Williams v.
Bowen 844 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 Commissioner to show that 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 conclusive and terminates
the analysis. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 933 F.2d 799, 801 (10th Cir. 1991).
of the Commissioner's disability decision is limited to
determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standard and whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Hamilton v. Secretary of Health and HumanServices, 961 F.2d 1495, 1497-98 (10th
Cir. 1992); Brown v. Sullivan, 912 F.2d 1194, 1196
(10th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is evidence
a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Brown, 912 F.2d at 1196. It requires
more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance of the
evidence. Hedstrom v. Sullivan, 783 F.Supp. 553, 556
(D. Colo. 1992). “Evidence is not substantial if it is
overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or constitutes
mere conclusion.” Musgrave v. Sullivan, 966
F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992). Further,
“if the ALJ failed to apply the correct legal test,
there is a ground for reversal apart from a lack of