United States District Court, D. Kansas
JON R. HEGWER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Crow, U.S. District Senior Judge
an action reviewing the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying the plaintiff disability insurance
benefits. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties.
General legal standards
court's standard of review is set forth in 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), which provides that "the findings of the
Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive." The court should review
the Commissioner's decision to determine only whether the
decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether
the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Glenn v. Shalala, 21 F.3d 983, 984 (10th Cir. 1994).
Substantial evidence requires more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance, and is satisfied by such evidence that
a reasonable mind might accept to support the conclusion. The
determination of whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's decision is not simply a quantitative
exercise, for evidence is not substantial if it is
overwhelmed by other evidence or if it really constitutes
mere conclusion. Ray v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 222, 224
(10th Cir. 1989). Although the court is not to reweigh the
evidence, the findings of the Commissioner will not be
mechanically accepted. Nor will the findings be affirmed by
isolating facts and labeling them substantial evidence, as
the court must scrutinize the entire record in determining
whether the Commissioner's conclusions are rational.
Graham v. Sullivan, 794 F.Supp. 1045, 1047 (D. Kan.
1992). The court should examine the record as a whole,
including whatever in the record fairly detracts from the
weight of the Commissioner's decision and, on that basis,
determine if the substantiality of the evidence test has been
met. Glenn, 21 F.3d at 984.
Social Security Act provides that an individual shall be
determined to be under a disability only if the claimant can
establish that they have a physical or mental impairment
expected to result in death or last for a continuous period
of twelve months which prevents the claimant from engaging in
substantial gainful activity (SGA). The claimant's
physical or mental impairment or impairments must be of such
severity that they are not only unable to perform their
previous work but cannot, considering their age, education,
and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine disability. If at any step a
finding of disability or non-disability can be made, the
Commissioner will not review the claim further. At step one,
the agency will find non-disability unless the claimant can
show that he or she is not working at a “substantial
gainful activity.” At step two, the agency will find
non-disability unless the claimant shows that he or she has a
“severe impairment, ” which is defined as any
“impairment or combination of impairments which
significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities.” At step three,
the agency determines whether the impairment which enabled
the claimant to survive step two is on the list of
impairments presumed severe enough to render one disabled. If
the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the inquiry proceeds to step four, at which the
agency assesses whether the claimant can do his or her
previous work; unless the claimant shows that he or she
cannot perform their previous work, they are determined not
to be disabled. If the claimant survives step four, the fifth
and final step requires the agency to consider vocational
factors (the claimant's age, education, and past work
experience) and to determine whether the claimant is capable
of performing other jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy. Barnhart v. Thomas, 124 S.Ct.
376, 379-380 (2003).
claimant bears the burden of proof through step four of the
analysis. Nielson v. Sullivan, 992 F.2d 1118, 1120
(10thCir. 1993). At step five, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform
other work that exists in the national economy.
Nielson, 992 F.2d at 1120; Thompson v.
Sullivan, 987 F.2d 1482, 1487 (10th Cir.
1993). The Commissioner meets this burden if the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Thompson, 987
F.2d at 1487.
going from step three to step four, the agency will assess
the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). This
RFC assessment is used to evaluate the claim at both step
four and step five. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
404.1520(e, f, g); 416.920(a)(4), 416.920(e, f, g).
case involves termination of benefits after plaintiff was
found disabled. An eight-step sequential evaluation process
is used in termination-of-benefit reviews in a case involving
disability insurance benefits. If the Commissioner meets his
burden of establishing that the claimant's medical
condition has improved and that the improvement is related to
the claimant's ability to work, the Commissioner must
then demonstrate that the claimant is currently able to
engage in substantial gainful activity. Hayden v.
Barnhart, 374 F.3d 986, 988 (10th Cir. 2004). The burden
of proof is on the Commissioner in a termination-of-benefits
review. Hayden, 374 F.3d at 991; Glenn v.
Shalala, 21 F.3d 983, 987 (10th Cir. 1994).
eight-step sequential evaluation process is as follows:
(1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
(If yes, and any applicable trial work period has been
completed, the agency will find that disability has ended).
(2) Does the claimant have an impairment or combination of
impairments which meets or equals the severity of a listed
impairment? (If yes, the claimant is still disabled.)
(3) If not, has there been medical improvement? If there has
been medical improvement, as shown by a decrease in medical
severity, see step 4. If there has been no decrease in
medical severity, there has been no medical improvement (see
(4) If there has been medical improvement, the agency must
determine whether it is related to the claimant's ability
to work (whether there has been an increase in the residual
functional capacity (RFC) based on the impairment that was
present at the time of the most favorable medical
determination). If medical improvement is not related to the
claimant's ability to work, see step 5. If medical
improvement is related to claimant's ability to work, see
(5) If no medical improvement was found at step 3, or that
the medical improvement was found at step 4 not to be related
to claimant's ability to work, the agency considers a
number of exceptions; if none of them apply, claimant's
disability will be found to continue.
(6) The agency will next determine whether all of the
claimant's current impairments in combination are severe.
If claimant has no severe impairments, claimant will no
longer be considered disabled.
(7) If claimant's impairments are severe, the agency will
assess the claimant's current ability to do substantial
gainful activity. The agency will assess the claimant's
RFC and consider whether the claimant can perform past work.
If claimant can perform past work, claimant will no longer be
(8) If claimant cannot perform past work, the agency will
consider, given claimant's RFC, whether claimant can