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Franks v. Colvin

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

October 9, 2013

RICKY FRANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JULIE A. ROBINSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court for review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] denying Plaintiff Ricky Franks’ application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.[2]Upon review, the Court finds that the underlying decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and thus affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. Procedural History

On December 15, 2009, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning September 2, 2009. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). After a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision in August 2011, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled; in October 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision. Plaintiff then timely sought judicial review before this Court.

II. Standard for Judicial Review

Judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) is limited to whether the defendant’s decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether defendant applied the correct legal standards.[3] The Tenth Circuit has defined “substantial evidence” as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”[4] In the course of its review, the court may not re-weigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of defendant.[5]

III. Legal Standards and Analytical Framework

Under the Social Security Act, “disability” means the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment.”[6] An individual “shall be determined to be under a disability 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 economy.”[7] The Secretary has established a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is disabled.[8] If the ALJ determines the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any step along the way, the evaluation ends.[9]

IV. Discussion

Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ’s determination at step one that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of September 2, 2009. Nor does Plaintiff challenge the ALJ’s determination at step two that Plaintiff has medically “severe” impairments: moderate cervical disc protrusion, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ’s determination at step three that Plaintiff’s impairments or combination of impairments do not meet or medically equal listings 1.02 and 1.04.[10]

Plaintiff does challenge the ALJ’s determination at step four of Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (RFC). At step four, an “‘ALJ must evaluate a claimant’s physical and mental [residual functional capacity (“RFC”)].’”[11] The RFC represents “the most that the claimant can still do despite her limitations, and must include all of the claimant’s medically determinable impairments.”[12]

Substantial evidence supported ALJ’s RFC finding

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff can perform less than the full range of light work, and can: occasionally lift twenty pounds and frequently lift ten pounds; and stand/walk/sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday, with the need to alternate between sitting and standing at least every thirty minutes. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and is capable of only occasional rotation, flexion, or extension of the neck; and only occasional bilateral fingering. The ALJ further determined that Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and excessive vibration.

Rather than Plaintiff identifying with specificity the ALJ’s so-called erroneous findings concerning his limitations and abilities, and rather than identifying which findings are not tied to the evidence, Plaintiff offers a general challenge to the sufficiency of the ALJ’s discussion. Plaintiff argues that contrary to the requirements of SSR 96-8p, [13] the ALJ failed to provide a ...


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