United States District Court, D. Colorado
T. BABCOCK, JUDGE.
appeals from the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) Commissioner's final decision denying
his application for disability insurance benefits, filed
pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq., and his application for
supplemental security income, filed pursuant to Title XVI of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383c.
Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Oral
argument would not materially assist me in the determination
of this appeal. After consideration of the parties'
briefs, as well as the administrative record, I REVERSE and
REMAND the Commissioner's final order for further
Statement of the Case
seeks judicial review of SSA's decision denying his
applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income. Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff
filed his applications in January 2016 alleging that his
disability began on July 25, 2016. [Administrative Record
(“AR”) 208, 220]
initially denied his applications in June 2017. [AR 122-31]
The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted an
evidentiary hearing on July 26, 2018 and issued a written
ruling on October 4, 2018. [AR 12-78] The ALJ ruled that
Plaintiff was not disabled. [AR 32] The SSA Appeals Council
subsequently denied Plaintiff's administrative request
for review of the ALJ's determination, making SSA's
denial final for the purpose of judicial review. [AR 1-6,
207]; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
Plaintiff timely filed his Complaint with this court seeking
review of SSA's final decision. ECF No. 1.
SSA's Five-Step Process for Determining
claimant is “disabled” under Title II of the
Social Security Act if he is unable to “engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). SSA has established a
five-step sequential evaluation for determining whether a
claimant is disabled and thus entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.
one, SSA asks whether the claimant is presently engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” If he is,
benefits are denied and the inquiry stops. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two, SSA asks
whether the claimant has a “severe
impairment”-that is, an impairment or combination of
impairments that “significantly limits [his] physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If he does not,
benefits are denied and the inquiry stops. If he does, SSA
moves on to step three, where it determines whether the
claimant's impairments “meet or equal” one of
the “listed impairments”- impairments so severe
that SSA has determined that a claimant who has them is
conclusively disabled without regard to the claimant's
age, education, or work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If not, SSA goes to step four.
four, SSA determines the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”)-that is, what he is still able
to do despite his impairments-and asks whether the claimant
can do any of his “past relevant work” given that
RFC. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If not,
SSA goes to the fifth and final step, where it must show that
the claimant's RFC allows him to do other work in the
national economy in view of his age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).
The claimant has “the burden of establishing a prima
facie case of disability at steps one through four.”
Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir.
Standard of Review
review concerns only whether SSA's factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct
legal standards were applied. Vigil v. Colvin, 805
F.3d 1199, 1201 (10th Cir. 2015). With regard to the law,
reversal may be appropriate when SSA fails to apply proper
legal standards. Hendron v. Colvin, 767 F.3d 951,
954 (10th Cir. 2014). With regard to the evidence, I must
“determine whether the findings of fact . . . are based
upon substantial evidence, and inferences reasonably drawn
therefrom. If they are so supported, they are conclusive upon
the reviewing court and may not be disturbed.”
Trujillo v. Richardson, 429 F.2d 1149, 1150 (10th
Cir. 1970). “Substantial evidence is more than a mere
scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir.
2007). The record must demonstrate that the ALJ considered
all the evidence, but an ALJ is not required to discuss every
piece of evidence. Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007,
1009-10 (10th Cir. 1996). I examine the record as a whole and
may not reweigh the evidence or substitute my judgment for
that of the ALJ. Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d at
The ALJ's Ruling
ruling, the ALJ followed the five-step analysis outlined
above. The ALJ concluded under the first step that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his
alleged onset date of July 25, 2016. [AR 17] Under step two,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had severe impairments of
seizure disorder, unspecified cognitive disorder, and mood
disorder with bipolar features. [Id.] The ALJ
concluded under step three that the enumerated severe