United States District Court, D. Utah
M. Warner Chief Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE FINAL
DECISION OF THE ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY
N. PARRISH JUDGE
the court is an appeal filed by Plaintiff Christy D.S.
(“Plaintiff”) seeking review of the final
decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her claim
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”),
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The court has reviewed the
written memoranda submitted by the parties and concludes 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 court therefore
affirms the decision.
filed an application for DIB in July 2014, alleging
disability beginning in December 2011, due to both physical
and mental impairments. Her application was denied initially
and on reconsideration. After an administrative hearing before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”),
ALJ issued his decision against Plaintiff on January 26,
2017. In his decision, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity and
had “severe” impairments that did not meet or
medically equal a per se disabling impairment listed in 20
C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1
(“Listing”). The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work, with the following limitations:
1. Plaintiff could sit, stand, or walk six hours in an eight
2. Plaintiff could lift and carry twenty (20) pounds
occasionally and ten (10) pounds frequently;
3. Plaintiff could frequently balance, stoop, kneel, and
climb ramps or stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; and occasionally crouch and crawl;
4. Plaintiff could occasionally reach overhead but frequently
reach in all other directions with her left arm and
frequently reach in all directions with her right arm;
5. Plaintiff could frequently handle, finger, and feel
6. Plaintiff was limited to understanding, remembering,
carrying out, and making judgments on short and simple job
this RFC and relying on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national
economy. Therefore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not disabled under the Act.
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 (citation omitted) (quoting
Hackett, 395 F.3d at 1172). 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) (quoting Casias v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir.
1991)). “[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) (quoting Byron v.
Heckler, 742 F.2d 1232, 1235 (10th Cir. 1984)).
five-step evaluation process has been established for
determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(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. § 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 [the] 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
Listing], the claimant is presumed disabled without further
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[s] her
from performing her past relevant work, if other work exists
in significant numbers in the national economy that
accommodates her [RFC] and vocational factors, she is not
Martin v. Barnhart, 470 F.Supp.2d 1324, 1326-27 (D.
Utah 2006); see 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v); 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; see also 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 (quoting Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 142 (1987)); see 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If it is determined that the
claimant “can make an adjustment to other work, ”
then she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
If, on the other hand, it is determined that the claimant
“cannot make an adjustment to other work, ” she
is disabled and entitled to benefits. Id.
opening brief challenges the ALJ's finding that her
impairments did not meet a Listing,  and the ALJ's RFC
finding. The court notes that Plaintiff's
opening brief is devoid of any citation to the record. This
has made Plaintiff's arguments difficult for the court to
evaluate. “[I]t is the appellant's responsibility
to tie the salient facts, supported by specific record
citation, to [her] legal contentions.” Streeter v.
Berryhill, 724 Fed.Appx. 632, 635 (10th Cir. 2018)
(alterations in original) (quoting United States v.
Rodriguez-Aguirre, 108 F.3d 1228, 1237 n.8 (10th Cir.
1997)). Like the appellants in Streeter and
Parker v. Colvin, 676 Fed.Appx. 798 (10th Cir.
2017), Plaintiff “merely recites the relevant standards
and recounts the ALJ's decision, without pinpointing
specific errors.” Parker, 676 Fed.Appx. at
800. Where Plaintiff does allege errors, they are generally
conclusory and lack analysis. However, because Plaintiff has
cited to some authorities, and referred to the ALJ's
decision, out of an abundance of caution the court will
proceed with its analysis of the ALJ's decision under the
standard described above.
The ALJ Reasonably Found Plaintiff Did Not Meet or Equal a
first challenges the ALJ's analysis at step three of the
sequential evaluation process. At step three, the ALJ
determines whether a claimant has an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets a per se disabling
listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 404.1525. In order to meet a Listing, a claimant
must show that her impairments meet “all of
the specified medical criteria. An impairment that manifests
only some of those criteria, no matter how severely, does not
qualify.” Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521,
530 (1990). The claimant must also prove that her impairments
meet the listing for a continuous period of at least twelve
(12) months. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(c)(4).
Here, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not meet the
Listing 1.02(B) or 1.04. The ALJ also found that
Plaintiff's osteopenia and her history of
exercise-induced syncopal episodes did not meet a Listing,
and that Plaintiff did not meet a mental impairment
Listing. Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's
findings regarding Listing 1.02(B) and his analysis regarding
her syncopal episodes and mental impairment.
102 requires a major dysfunction of “one major
peripheral joint in each upper extremity (i.e., shoulder,
elbow, or wrist-hand), resulting in inability to perform fine
and gross movements effectively, as defined in
1.00B2c.” 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §
1.02(B). Section 1.00 defines the inability to perform fine
and gross movements effectively as “an extreme loss of
function of both upper extremities; i.e., an impairment(s)
that interferes very seriously with the individual's
ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete
activities.” Id. § 1.00(B)(2)(c).
argues that the consultative examiner (“CE”),
Tyler Hedin, M.D. (“Dr. Hedin”), “found
that [Plaintiff] would have difficulty lifting heavy . . .
objects, ” and that “[t]here was absolutely no
discussion about ‘ability to perform fine and gross
motor movements'” in D r. Hedin's
report. Plaintiff also complains that