United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER
E. Blackburn United States District Judge
matter before me is plaintiff's
Complaint [#1],  filed January 4, 2019,
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 he is disabled as a result of degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of
the right trapezium/first metacarpal joint, and depression.
After his 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 December 12, 2017. At the time of the
hearing, plaintiff was 61 years old. He has a high school
education and past relevant work experience as a ranch hand,
heavy equipment operator, and laborer. He has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since at least June 30, 2012,
his amended 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 impairments, the judge found
the severity of those impairments did not meet or equal any
impairment listed in the social security regulations. Other
impairments, most particularly depression, were found to be
nonsevere. The ALJ determined plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform a range of unskilled medium
work with postural and environmental limitations. Although
this conclusion precluded plaintiff's past relevant work,
the ALJ found there were other jobs existing in substantial
numbers in the national and local economies he could perform.
She therefore found plaintiff 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 court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
person is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act only if his physical and/or mental impairments preclude
him from performing both his 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 quinquepartite 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 his 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 ...