United States District Court, D. Colorado
RAYMOND P. MOORE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for
judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of
Defendant's denial of her application for disability
insurance benefits. (ECF No. 1.) The parties have fully
briefed the matter. (ECF Nos. 16, 17, 18.) The Court has
reviewed the pleadings, case file, and applicable law. For
the reasons stated below, the Court vacates the
Commissioner's decision and remands this matter for
filed her application in October 2015, alleging disability
beginning on September 3, 2015. In December 2017, after a
hearing at which Plaintiff testified and was represented by
counsel, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
denied her claim.
applied the five-step process for evaluating disability
claims. See Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052
(10th Cir. 2009). At step one, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
had the following severe impairments: lumbar disc disease,
status post lumbar decompression and fusion, history of left
shoulder arthroscopy, type II diabetes mellitus with
peripheral neuropathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
with left extremity edema, and morbid obesity. At step three,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff's physical and mental
impairments, considered independently and in combination, did
not meet or equal the severity of a listed impairment.
reaching step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
sedentary work, subject to limitations. The applicable
regulation provides the following definition:
Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a
time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like
docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Although a sedentary
job is defined as one which involves sitting, a certain
amount of walking and standing is often necessary in carrying
out job duties. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing
are required occasionally and other sedentary criteria are
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a). The ALJ further limited
Plaintiff's RFC as follows:
[Plaintiff] requires the use of a handheld cane when
ambulating, and can carry only small objects of less than 10
pounds in the non-dominant upper extremity when ambulating.
[Plaintiff] can frequently reach with the non-dominant left
upper extremity. [Plaintiff] can never operate foot controls,
can never climb or balance on uneven terrain; and can never
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. [Plaintiff] can never be
exposed to unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts.
[Plaintiff] cannot operate a motor vehicle as part of work
(ECF No. 10-2 at 21, ¶ 5.)
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work as a customer service representative because
such work does not require activities precluded by her RFC.
Therefore, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not entitled to
disability insurance benefits without reaching step five.
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision
final. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff
argues the ALJ erred by (1) failing to evaluate properly the
medical evidence and source opinions, (2) failing to evaluate
properly her subjective reports, and (3) finding that she
could perform her past relevant work.
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. Mays v.
Colvin, 739 F.3d 569, 571 (10th Cir. 2014).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance.” Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052
(quotation omitted). To determine whether the substantiality
test has been met, the Court meticulously examines the record
as a whole, including anything that may undercut or detract
from the ALJ's findings, but the Court does not reweigh
the evidence or retry the case. Id. “The
possibility of drawing two inconsistent ...