Ms. Lopez was 33 years old at the time of the Commissioner’s final decision. She has a high school education and has worked as a cashier. She applied for SSI on November 19, 2002, alleging an inability to work since November 12, 2002, due to bad knees, a bad back, and pain and stiffness in her right hand. The agency denied her application initially and on reconsideration, after which she requested and received a hearing before an ALJ. The ALJ denied benefits on February 11, 2005. On administrative review, however, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ’s decision and remanded the matter, instructing the ALJ to do the following: (1) to consolidate with the remanded claim a claim that Ms. Lopez had filed in 2005; (2) to obtain additional evidence from her treating physicians; and (3) to consider their opinions in accordance with applicable agency regulations and Social Security Rulings.
On remand, the same ALJ conducted a hearing and denied benefits on October 27, 2006. At step one of the familiar five-step sequential evaluation process, see Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009), the ALJ found that Ms. Lopez had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. At steps two and three, she found that Ms. Lopez suffered from a “severe combination of impairments” (specifically, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with herniated discs and chronic low back pain; chondromalacia in both knees; and a major depressive disorder) but that her impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Aplt. App., Vol. II at 18. At step four, the ALJ found Ms. Lopez “not entirely credible” and determined that she retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to occasionally lift twenty pounds and frequently lift ten pounds; to stand or walk up to two hours in an eight-hour day; to sit for up to six hours in an eight-hour day; and to “occasionally stoop, squat, crouch, kneel, climb or balance.” Id. at 18-19. She also found Ms. Lopez “unable to push/pull with [her] lower extremities” and “unable to understand, remember, and carry out complex job instructions.” Id. at 19. Notwithstanding, the ALJ decided that Ms. Lopez was not disabled because she could return to her past work as a cashier. Continuing on to step five, the ALJ concluded, apparently in the alternative, that Ms. Lopez was not disabled because, considering her age, education, work experience, and RFC, she could make a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
Because the Appeals Council declined to review Ms. Lopez’s appeal of the ALJ’s October 27, 2006, decision, that decision is the Commissioner’s final decision for purposes of our review. See Poppa v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
Related Categories: Government / Politics
|Circuit Court Judge(s)|
|Appellant Lawyer(s)||Appellant Law Firm(s)|
|Francesca Jeanne MacDowell||Martone Law Firm|
|Gary J. Martone||Martone Law Firm|
|Appellee Lawyer(s)||Appellee Law Firm(s)|
|Manuel Lucero||Office of the United States Attorney|
|Dianne Pryor||Social Security Administration|