United States District Court, D. Colorado
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Y. WANG, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
civil action arises under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33, for
review of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration's (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) final decision partially granting
Plaintiff Steven Schwieters's (“Plaintiff” or
“Mr. Schwieters”) application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Pursuant to the
Parties' consent [#15], this civil action was referred to
this Magistrate Judge for a decision on the merits.
See [#23]; 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73;
D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.2. Upon review of the Parties'
briefing, the entire case file, the Administrative Record,
and the applicable case law, this court respectfully
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
Schwieters, born October 29, 1962, alleges he became disabled
on July 5, 2016, at 53 years-of-age, due to lung nodules,
neuralgia of the right chest wall, COPD, PTSD, nerve damage
of the right foot, general anxiety disorder, and somatoform
disorder. See [#13-3 at 82-83; #13-6 at 192]. In
addition, Plaintiff suffers from lumbar degenerative disc
disease, multilevel spondylosis, thoracic radiculopathy, hip
osteoarthritis, and bi-lateral knee pain. See [#13-2
at 15; #13-6 at 212-13, 220-24]. Plaintiff is a high school
graduate who completed two years of community college without
receiving a degree; he also served in the Army. See
[#13-2 at 38, 42-43; #13-3 at 93; #13-6 at 193].
October 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his application for DIB.
[#13-2 at 12; #13-3 at 81]. The Social Security
Administration denied Plaintiff's application
administratively on March 13, 2017, and upon reconsideration
on March 20, 2017. See [#13-2 at 12, 40; #13-3 at
81; #13-4 at 96-102]. Mr. Schwieters requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”),
see [#13-4 at 103-17], which ALJ Kurt Shuman
(“the ALJ”) held on January 8, 2018, see
[#13-2 at 12, 33]. The ALJ received testimony from the
Plaintiff, Vocational Expert Bonnie Martindale (the
“VE”), and Medical Expert Ronald Alston (the
“ME”) at the hearing. See [id.
at 12, 31].
Schwieters testified that he last worked in July of 2016,
though he would work if he could, and that he now receives
disability benefits from the United States Department of
Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) for his chronic
bronchitis and granulomatous lung disease. [#13-2 at 42-43,
55]. Plaintiff continued that his “lungs hurt all the
time” and that he cannot tolerate the use of inhalers.
See [id. at 43-45]. Mr. Schwieters also
testified that he received pain and nerve medications which
caused adverse reactions, but that he receives epidural
“nerve injections” on his right side that help,
though the injections are inconsistent in their length of
relief. See [id. at 46-48, 54]. As to his
other ailments, Plaintiff testified that he has degenerative
disc disease, issues with both knees, and arthritis in his
hip-he used to see a chiropractor for these physical
ailments; Plaintiff also stated that he suffered from
psychological issues. See [id. at 49-55].
then testified to Mr. Schwieters's mental impairments,
and considered whether Plaintiff's mental impairments met
or medically equaled certain listings. See [#13-2 at
57-58]. Though finding that the medical record supported the
presence of certain mental ailments, the ME testified that
these mental ailments caused no more than mild to moderate
limitations and thus Mr. Schwieters's mental impairments
did not meet or medically equal a listing. See
[id. at 58-68].
also testified at the hearing. Prior to the hearing, the VE
summarized Mr. Schwieters's past relevant work to include
auto mechanic, a specific vocational preparation
(“SVP”) of 7, and a medium to very heavy exertion
job; and a housekeeper-medical, a SVP of 2, and a medium to
heavy exertion job. See [#13-6 at 256]. The VE
testified that an individual, limited to light work and
subject to several exertional and non-exertional limitations,
could not perform Mr. Schwieters's past relevant work,
but that such an individual could perform the light,
unskilled jobs of marker and router-both SVP of 2.
See [#13-2 at 72-74]. The VE explained that this
individual could not maintain these jobs if he was off-task
more than 10% each day, or would miss more than 1-2 days per
month for medical appointments, or would need at least one
unscheduled break of 30-60 minutes per week. See
[id. at 78-79]. As to an individual limited to
sedentary work and further exertional and non-exertional
limitations, the VE testified that such an individual could
not perform Mr. Schwieters's past relevant work; the VE
did not identify any jobs that such an individual could
perform otherwise. See [id. at 75].
21, 2017, the ALJ issued a “partially favorable”
decision to Mr. Schwieters. The ALJ concluded that Mr.
1. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date;
2. had the severe impairments of: chronic pain syndrome,
major depressive disorder, somatic symptom disorder, anxiety,
PTSD, pectus excavatum, lung modules, thoracic radiculopathy,
intercostal neuralgia, COPD, and emphysema;
3. had no impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled a listing;
4. had the RFC to perform light work, subject to various
limitations, and could not perform any past relevant work;
5. had the ability to perform jobs existing in the national
economy prior to October 29, 2017, but did not have
that ability after October 29, 2017.
at 15-24]. Thus, at step five the ALJ determined that,
pursuant to Medical-Vocational Guideline 202.06, Mr.
Schwieters became disabled as of October 29, 2017, the date
of his 55th birthday. [Id. at 24-25]. Plaintiff
requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision,
which the Appeals Council denied, rendering the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See
[id. at 1-3]. Plaintiff sought judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision in the United States
District Court for the District of Colorado on June 29, 2018,
invoking this court's jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. §