United States District Court, D. Colorado
KRISTEN L. MIX MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on review of the Commissioner's
decision denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefit
pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.
The Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's
final decision under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
Court has reviewed Plaintiff's Opening Brief [#14] (the
“Brief”), Defendant's Response Brief [#15]
(“Response”), Plaintiff's Rely Brief [#18]
(“Reply”), the Social Security Administrative
Record [#11] (“Tr.”), and the applicable law and
is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set
forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is
REVERSED and REMANDED for
further fact finding.
was born on January 28, 1961. Tr. 167. His past work was as a
truck driver, laundry worker, folding machine operator,
janitor, degreaser, and fire extinguisher repairer. Tr. 17.
He last worked in 2009 as a driver for a laundry business.
Tr. 186, 192.
filed a claim for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income Benefits in December 2014. Tr.
11, 147-55. Plaintiff alleged disability due to gout,
problems with swelling of foot and knees, arthritis, and left
wrist issues, and alleged an amended disability onset date of
May 24, 2013. Tr. 147, 151, 186.
applications were denied, Tr. 81-89, and he requested an
administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Tr. 93-94. A hearing before ALJ William
Musseman was held on Plaintiff's claim on March 27, 2017.
testified at the hearing that he was 56 years old, and that
his knees gave him the most problem, with pain and swelling.
Tr. 27. He stated that he has pain and arthritis in his
shoulders and neck, and problems with his hips. Tr. 29-30.
Plaintiff further said he has problems standing; can be on
his feet ten to fifteen minutes before he needs to sit down;
his knees swell when he is active; and he can only walk three
blocks. Tr. 28. Plaintiff testified that he sometimes has to
elevate his legs and ice his knees for four to five days to
get the swelling down. Tr. 29. He is on medication for pain
and gout. Tr. 31.
denied Plaintiff's claim for benefits in a decision dated
June 20, 2017. Tr. 11-18. In the sequential evaluation
process required by law, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the
insured status requirements of the Act through December 31,
2014, and that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the amended onset date of May 24,
2013. Tr. 13. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the
severe impairment of osteoarthritis in his knees. Tr. 14. At
step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment that met or medically equaled the requirements of
a Listing. Tr. 14.
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ
found that Plaintiff has the capacity “to perform
medium work . . . except [Plaintiff] is limited to occasional
climbing of ladders and scaffolds, and frequent operation of
foot and leg controls.” Tr. 14. The ALJ also found that
Plaintiff's “medically determined impairments could
reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms;
however, the claimant's statements concerning the
intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms
are not entirety consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence in the record[.]” Tr. 14-15.
four, the ALJ found with the assistance of a vocational
expert that Plaintiff remained able to perform his past
relevant work. Tr. 17. Accordingly, the ALJ did not proceed
to step five. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been
under a disability, as defined in the Act, from May 24, 2013,
through the date of the decision. Tr. 18. Plaintiff's
claim for benefits was therefore denied. Tr. 18.
Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for review.
Tr. 1-4. Thus, the ALJ's decision became final for
purposes of judicial review.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
to the Act:
[T]he Social Security Administration is authorized to pay
disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security
Income to persons who have a “disability.” A
person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such
benefits, “only if his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22 (2003)
(quoting 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(B)). Under the applicable legal standard, a
claimant is disabled if he or she is unable “to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . .
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(a); see alsoWall v.
Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009). The
existence of a qualifying disabling impairment must be