United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER
E. Blackburn Judge
matter before me is plaintiff's
Complaint [#1],  filed March 21, 2019,
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying
plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits under
Title II 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 multitude of
impairments, including multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc
disease, status post cervical spine injury requiring fusion
surgery, history of left knee ACL/meniscus injury, left ulnar
neuropathy, history of trigeminal neuralgia, conversion
disorder, traumatic brain injury, and a neurocognitive
disorder. After her application for disability insurance
benefits was denied, plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge. That hearing was held on April 30,
2018. At the time of this hearing, plaintiff was 32 years
old. She has a college education and past relevant work
experience as a hairstylist, bartender, front desk clerk,
housekeeper/cleaner, and page/fundraiser. She has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since September 25, 2015, her
alleged date of onset.
found plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled
to disability insurance benefits. Although the evidence
established plaintiff suffered from severe impairments, the
judge concluded the severity of those impairments did not
meet or equal any impairment listed in the social security
regulations. Other alleged impairments were found to be
non-severe. The ALJ found plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform simple, routine, repetitive
sedentary work with certain postural and environmental
restrictions. Although that conclusion precluded
plaintiff's past relevant work, the ALJ found there were
other jobs existing in significant numbers in the local and
national economies plaintiff 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 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 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 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(b)-(f). 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 ...