United States District Court, D. Utah, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
M. WARNER CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
parties in this case have consented to Chief Magistrate Judge
Paul M. Warner conducting all proceedings, including entry of
final judgment, with appeal to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Before the court is Marilyn M.'s
(“Plaintiff”) appeal of the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final
decision determining that Plaintiff was not entitled to
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”). After careful consideration of the written
briefs and the complete record, the court has determined that
oral argument is not necessary in this case. After careful
review of the administrative record, the parties' briefs,
and the relevant law, the court finds no reversible legal
error and concludes that the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence. The Commissioner's
decision is therefore affirmed.
was fifty (50) years old in July 2015, when she claimed
disability based on depression, fibromyalgia, Graves'
disease, anxiety, and fatigue, among other
conditions. She completed high school and has past
relevant work experience as an apartment manager and property
manager. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied
on September 30, 2016, by Jason W. Crowell, Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff requested review before
the Appeals Council, which was denied December 19, 2016,
rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner for judicial review. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
court “‘review[s] the Commissioner's decision
to determine whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct
legal standards were applied.'” Lax v.
Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Hackett v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir.
2005)). The Commissioner's findings, “if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. It requires more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.”
Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084 (quotations and citation
omitted). In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the court
cannot “reweigh the evidence” or
“substitute” its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Madrid v. Barnhart, 447 F.3d 788, 790 (10th Cir.
2006) (quotations and citations omitted). “[F]ailure to
apply the correct legal standard or to provide this court
with a sufficient basis to determine that appropriate legal
principles have been followed [are] grounds for
reversal.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d 1163,
1165 (10th Cir. 2005) (quotations and citation omitted).
five-step evaluation process has been established for
determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v); see also Williams v. Bowen,
844 F.2d 748, 750-51 (10th Cir. 1988) (discussing the
five-step process). If a determination can be made at any one
of the steps that a claimant is or is not disabled, the
subsequent steps need not be analyzed. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a)(4), 404.1520(a)(4). The five step
sequential disability determination is as follows:
1. If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work she
is not disabled.
2. If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful
work, her impairment(s) must be severe before she can be
found to be disabled.
3. If claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and
has a severe impairment(s) that has lasted or is expected to
last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and
her impairment(s) meets or medically equals a listed
impairment contained in [20 C.F.R. § 404, Part P,
Appendix 1], the claimant is presumed disabled without
4. If the claimant's impairment(s) does not prevent her
from doing her past relevant work, she is not disabled.
5. Even if the claimant's impairment(s) prevent her from
performing her past relevant work, if other work exists in
significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates
her residual functional capacity [(“RFC”)] and
vocational factors, she is not disabled.
Martin v. Barnhart, 470 F.Supp.2d 1324, 1326-27 (D.
Utah 2006); see 20 C.F.R. §§
Williams, 844 F.2d at 750-51.
claimant bears the burden of proof beginning with step one
and ending with step four. See Williams, 844 F.2d at
750-51; Henrie v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs., 13 F.3d 359, 360 (10th Cir. 1993). At step five,
the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to establish
“whether the claimant has the [RFC] . . . to perform
other work in the national economy in view of his [or her]
age, education, and work experience.”
Williams, 844 F.2d at 751 (quotations and citations
omitted); see 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If it is determined that
the claimant “can make an adjustment to other work,
” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v), he is not disabled. If, on the other hand,
it is determined that the claimant “cannot make an
adjustment to other work, ” id., he is
disabled and entitled to benefits.
opening brief alleges three flaws in the ALJ's decision
which Plaintiff argues merit reversal. First, Plaintiff
argues that “[t]he ALJ erred in relying on vocational
expert testimony to fulfill his step [five] burden without
addressing post-hearing objections to that
testimony.” Second, Plaintiff argues that “[t]he
ALJ failed to adhere to Agency policy and Tenth Circuit
precedent when considering the consistent opinions of
Plaintiff's treating physician and the consultative
examiner.” Finally, Plaintiff argues that
“[t]he ALJ's credibility analysis is deficient
generally, but also because the ALJ failed to consider
Plaintiff's exemplary work history prior to her alleged
disability onset.” The court has carefully reviewed the
administrative record and finds that Plaintiff has failed to
provide the court grounds on which to overturn the decision
of the Commissioner. The court will address each of
Plaintiff's arguments in turn. For the reasons that
follow, the court finds that the ALJ applied the correct
legal standard and the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court recommends that
the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed.
The ALJ Properly Relied on Vocational ...