United States District Court, D. Colorado
ANDREA D. GARCIA, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER
E. Blackburn United States District Judge
matter before me is plaintiff's
Complaint [#1],  filed April 19, 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
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 she is disabled as a result of a host of physical
impairments, but also, more relevantly for present purposes,
anxiety and an affective disorder. 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
March 15, 2017. At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was
43 years old. She has an associates degree and past relevant
work experience as a bookkeeper, customer service
representative, and telemarketer. She has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since October 20, 2012, 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 physical and mental
impairments, the judge found the severity of those
impairments did not meet or equal any impairment listed in
the social security regulations. The ALJ determined plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity to perform a range of
sedentary work with postural, environmental, and
nonexertional impairments. Although this finding precluded
plaintiff's past relevant work, the ALJ found there were
other jobs existing in substantial numbers in the national
and local economies she could perform. He therefore 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
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).
Commissioner has established a five-step 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 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 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 ...