United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER
REID NEUREITER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) concluded that
Plaintiff Dana Lynn Davis Levan “has not been under a
disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act [the
“Act”] from October 9, 2014, through the date of
this decision, ” i.e., March 20, 2017.
30.) Ms. Levan has asked this Court to review that decision.
The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and
both parties have agreed to have this case decided by a U.S.
Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. #13.)
Standard of Review
Social Security appeals, the Court reviews the ALJ's
decision to determine whether the factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct
legal standards were applied. See Pisciotta v.
Astrue, 500 F.3d 1074, 1075 (10th Cir. 2007).
“Substantial evidence is such evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It
requires more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.” Raymond v. Astrue, 621 F.3d
1269, 1271-72 (10th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court “should, indeed must, exercise
common sense” and “cannot insist on technical
perfection.” Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue, 695 F.3d
1156, 1166 (10th Cir. 2012). The Court cannot reweigh the
evidence or its credibility, and it may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Lax v. Astrue, 489
F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007). Nor may the Court
“displace the [ALJ]'s choice between two fairly
conflicting views, even though the [C]ourt would justifiably
have made a different choice had the matter been before it de
novo.” Id. “A finding of
“‘no substantial evidence' will be found only
where there is a ‘conspicuous absence of credible
choices' or ‘no contrary medical
evidence.'” Trimiar v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d
1326, 1329 (10th Cir. 1992) (quoting Hames v.
Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir. 1983)).
second step of the Commissioner's five-step sequence for
making determinations,  the ALJ found Ms. Gonzales has the
following severe impairments:
fibromyalgia; degenerative joint disease, right knee,
status-post total knee arthroplasty and status-post revision
quad closure/repair; degenerative joint disease, left knee
with history of ACL reconstruction; degenerative disc
disease, cervical spine; arthritis, right hand; carpal tunnel
syndrome, left, status-post release; migraines; depression;
anxiety; alcoholism (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
(AR 32.) The ALJ also found that the “medical record
establishes these impairments as severe within the meaning of
the Regulations because they cause significant limitations in
the claimant's ability to perform basic work
determined that Ms. Levan's additional impairments of
osteopenia in the lumbar spine and hepatitis C were
non-severe. (AR 33.) The ALJ further noted that Ms. Levan
“has sought treatment for a right foot fracture and C.
diff colitis, ” but that the “medical record
indicates that these conditions resolved or are expected to
resolve within 12 months.” (Id.) And she found
“nothing in the medical record to indicate that these
conditions would cause [more] than minimal work-related
limitations or prevent substantial gainful activity for 12
months.” (Id.) Finally, the ALJ found the
following to be non-medically determinable impairments
because Ms. Levan's medical records did not reflect a
diagnosis from an acceptable medical source or by diagnostic
evidence: carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and
obsessive-compulsive disorder. (Id.)
three, the ALJ concluded Ms. Levan's various impairments
did not meet the criteria of any listed
impairment (see 20 C.F.R. § Pt. 404,
Subpart P, App. 1), either singly or in combination.
(Id.) In evaluating Ms. Levan's mental
impairments, she reviewed the criteria in listings 12.04
(depressive, bipolar, and related disorders), 12.06 (anxiety
and obsessive-compulsive disorders), and 12.15 (trauma and
stressor-related disorders), and specifically
“considered whether the ‘paragraph B'
criteria' are satisfied.” (AR 33-34.)
ALJ noted, “[t]o satisfy the ‘paragraph B'
criteria, the mental impairments must result in at least one
extreme or two marked limitations in a broad area of [mental]
functioning.” (AR 34.) There are four applicable areas
of mental functioning:
(1) Understand, remember, or apply information;
(2) Interact with others;
(3) Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace; and
(4) Adapt or manage oneself.
(Id., and listings 12.04, 12.06, and 12.15.) The ALJ
further explained that “[a] marked limitation means
functioning in this area independently, appropriately,
effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited,
” and that “[a]n extreme limitation is the
inability to function independently, appropriately or
effectively, and on a sustained basis.” (AR 34.) The
ALJ engaged in a detailed analysis of each of the four areas
of mental functioning, taking into consideration the evidence
and Ms. Levan's medical records. (Id.)
the ALJ concluded that, with respect to understanding,
remembering, or applying information, Ms. Levan has only a
mild limitation. (Id.) Although Ms. Levan testified
she has difficulty concentrating, the ALJ also considered
evidence in Ms. Levan's medical records, including her
own self-evaluation, indicating she is able to care for her