United States District Court, D. New Mexico
December 20, 2016
CINDY MADRID, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION ON
MOTION TO REVERSE AND REMAND
FASHING, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on plaintiff Cindy Madrid's
Motion to Reverse Commissioner's Administrative Decision
and Remand Claim (Doc. 26), which was fully briefed June 3,
2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Honorable Martha
Vasquez referred this matter to me for a recommended
disposition. Doc. 21. Having carefully reviewed the
parties' submissions and the administrative record, I
recommend that the Court DENY Ms. Madrid's motion.
Standard of Review
standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the
Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial
evidence and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. Maes v. Astrue, 522 F.3d 1093, 1096 (10th
Cir. 2008). If substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's findings and the correct legal standards
were applied, the Commissioner's decision stands, and the
plaintiff is not entitled to relief. Langley v.
Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004).
“The failure to apply the correct legal standard or to
provide this court with a sufficient basis to determine that
appropriate legal principles have been followed is grounds
for reversal.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d
1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and
brackets omitted). The Court must meticulously review the
entire record, but may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir.
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118. A decision “is not
based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other
evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of
evidence supporting it.” Id. While the Court
may not reweigh the evidence or try the issues de novo, its
examination of the record as a whole must include
“anything that may undercut or detract from the
ALJ's findings in order to determine if the
substantiality test has been met.” Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2005).
“‘The possibility of drawing two inconsistent
conclusions from the evidence does not prevent [the] findings
from being supported by substantial evidence.'”
Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200
(10th Cir. 2004)).
Applicable Law and Sequential Evaluation Process
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that he or she is unable “to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a). The claimant also must establish that he or she
became disabled before his or her last insured date.
See 42 U.S.C. 423(c)(1); Blea v. Barnhart,
466 F.3d 903, 909 (10th Cir. 2006) (the claimant “only
qualifies for disability benefits if he can show that he was
disabled prior to his last insured date”).
considering a disability application, the Commissioner is
required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987). At the first four steps of the
evaluation process, the claimant must show: (1) the claimant
is not engaged in “substantial gainful activity;”
(2) the claimant has a “severe medically determinable .
. . impairment . . . or a combination of impairments”
that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year;
and (3) the impairment(s) either meet or equal one
of the Listings of presumptively disabling impairments;
or (4) the claimant is unable to perform his or her
“past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv); Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1260-61.
If the claimant cannot show that his or her impairment meets
or equals a Listing but proves that he or she is unable to
perform his or her “past relevant work, ” the
burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner, at step five, to
show that the claimant is able to perform other work in the
national economy, considering the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and
work experience. Id.
Background and Procedural History
Madrid is 56 years old and resides with her minor child. AR
130-31. She holds college degrees in chemistry and the
philosophy of religions, and completed laser electro optics
technician school after college. AR 40, 160. She worked for
approximately 17 years as an electro optical technician and
optical engineer. AR 22, 39, 150. Ms. Madrid filed an
application for disability insurance benefits on September
22, 2011, alleging disability since January 1, 2004 due to
sleep apnea, back pain, arm pain, leg pain, plantar
fasciitis, obesity, esophagus damage, respiratory problems,
pancreatitis, depression, a sleeping disorder, high blood
pressure, and a thyroid condition. AR 130-36, 159, 200.
Madrid filed a previous application for disability insurance
benefits on June 19, 2009, which the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denied on October 5, 2009.
AR 14. Ms. Madrid did not seek reconsideration of that
decision. Id. Applying the doctrine of res
judicata and declining to reopen her first claim, the
ALJ held that Ms. Madrid's current claim could only
address the time period spanning from the day after her first
claim was denied until the date she was last insured: October
6, 2009 through September 30, 2010. Id. at 14-15.
initially denied Ms. Madrid's current claim on June 8,
2012-finding that the evidence failed to show she was
disabled at any time prior to the date she was last insured.
AR 80-82. The SSA denied her claims on reconsideration on
January 23, 2013. AR 86-87. Ms. Madrid requested a hearing
before an administrative judge (“ALJ”). AR 88-89.
On January 8, 2014, ALJ Barry O'Melinn held a hearing. AR
issued his unfavorable decision on February 25, 2014. AR
11-28. At step one, the ALJ found that Ms. Madrid had not
engaged in substantial, gainful activity during the period
from her prior disability denial through her last insured
date. AR 16. Because Ms. Madrid had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity for at least twelve months,
the ALJ proceeded to step two. AR 17-19. At step two, the ALJ
found that Ms. Madrid suffered from the following severe
impairments: obesity, and back, neck and hip disorders. AR
17. The ALJ also found that Ms. Madrid had the following
nonsevere impairments: hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux
disease (GERD), diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea,
plantar fasciitis, depression, and obsessive compulsive
disorder. AR 17. At step three, the ALJ found that
none of Ms. Madrid's impairments, alone or in
combination, met or medically equaled a Listing. AR 19.
Because the ALJ found that none of the impairments met a
Listing, the ALJ assessed Ms. Madrid's RFC. AR 19-22. The
ALJ found that:
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) with the
following exceptions: The claimant could occasionally climb
ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds. She could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch and crawl. She should avoid concentrated exposure to
operational control of moving machinery, unprotected heights
and hazardous machinery. Further, the claimant should avoid
direct contact with latex and adhesives.
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Madrid was unable to perform
any of her past relevant work. AR 22. At step five, the ALJ
found Ms. Madrid was not disabled, concluding that, through
the date she was last insured, she still could perform jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy-such as photo copier, cashier II, and office helper.
August 13, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Ms. Madrid's
request for review. AR 1-6. Ms. Madrid timely filed her
appeal to this Court on September 30, 2015. Doc. 1.
Madrid raises two arguments for reversing and remanding this
case: (1) the ALJ failed to properly consider the combination
of Ms. Madrid's impairments in light of her obesity and
(2) the ALJ improperly evaluated Ms. Madrid's
credibility. For the reasons discussed below, I find these
arguments unpersuasive and recommend that the Court deny the
motion to remand.
The ALJ properly considered the combination of Ms.
Madrid's impairments, including her obesity.
Madrid argues that the ALJ erred by “not properly
considering the combination of her impairments.” Doc.
26 at 4. Specifically, Ms. Madrid argues that the ALJ failed
to properly analyze, discuss, or explain the effects of Ms.
Madrid's obesity on her other impairments. Id.
at 5. Ms. Madrid further argues that the ALJ failed to
adequately discuss the limitations imposed by her fatigue
stemming from her obesity and sleep apnea. Id. at 6.
The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ adequately considered
the combination of Ms. Madrid's impairments, her obesity,
and her fatigue symptoms. Doc. 32 at 4-8. For the reasons
discussed below, I agree with the Commissioner.
Madrid asserts that the ALJ failed to properly consider the
limiting effects of her obesity in making the RFC finding.
The RFC finding is a function-by-function assessment, based
on how the claimant's functional physical and mental
limitations, resulting from her impairments, affect her
ability to work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545.
“The RFC assessment considers only functional
limitations and restrictions that result from an
individual's medically determinable impairment or
combination of impairments, including the impact of any
related symptoms.” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *1
(July 2, 1996). In determining a claimant's RFC, the
ALJ must consider all medically determinable impairments-both
severe and nonsevere. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(2). The RFC represents the claimant's maximum
remaining ability to do sustained work activities in an
ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis,
meaning eight hours a day for five days a week, or an
equivalent work schedule. SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *7.
issued ruling SSR 02-1p to guide the ALJ in evaluating
obesity in disability claims. In assessing an obese
claimant's RFC, SSR 02-1p directs ALJs to consider the
Obesity can cause limitation of function. . . . An individual
may have limitations in any of the exertional functions such
as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing,
and pulling. It may also affect ability to do postural
functions, such as climbing, balance, stooping, and
crouching. The ability to manipulate may be affected by the
presence of adipose (fatty) tissue in the hands and fingers.
The ability to tolerate extreme heat, humidity, or hazards
may also be affected.
The effects of obesity may not be obvious. For example, some
people with obesity also have sleep apnea. This can lead to
drowsiness and lack of mental clarity during the day. Obesity
may also affect an individual's social functioning.
An assessment should also be made of the effect obesity has
upon the individual's ability to perform routine movement
and necessary physical activity within the work environment.
Individuals with obesity may have problems with the ability
to sustain a function over time. . . . In cases involving
obesity, fatigue may affect the individual's physical and
mental ability to sustain work activity. This may be
particularly true in cases involving sleep apnea.
SSR 02-1p, 2002 WL 34686281, at *6 (Sept. 12, 2002).
SSR 02-1p cautions that “[o]besity in combination with
another impairment may or may not increase the severity or
functional limitations of the other impairment.”
Id. An ALJ must “not make assumptions about
the severity or functional effects of obesity combined with
other impairments . . . [but must] evaluate each case based
on the information in the case record.” Id.
SSR 02-1p requires the ALJ to consider the effects of
obesity, but does not require the ALJ “to note the
absence of any evidence that [claimant's] obesity
resulted in additional functional limitations or exacerbated
any other impairment” for each piece of evidence the
ALJ discusses. Smith v. Colvin, 625 F. App'x
896, 899 (10th Cir. 2015) (unpublished).
the ALJ found at step four that Ms. Madrid had the residual
functional capacity to perform light work,  except that she
could only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, never climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds; only occasionally balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; should avoid operational
control of moving machinery, unprotected heights, hazardous
machinery, and direct contact with latex and adhesives. AR
19. The ALJ explicitly stated that he considered SSR 02-1p
and considered the effects of Ms. Madrid's obesity in
formulating her RFC. AR 20. The ALJ's opinion also shows
that he considered the effect of Ms. Madrid's obesity in
combination with her other impairments. The ALJ stated that
In this case, obesity is a severe impairment in combination
with the claimant's musculoskeletal symptoms as it may
have further impaired the claimant's ability to perform
work-related activity. In the instant matter, claimant's
obesity does not indicate any limits when standing alone.
However, when taken in combination with the other
impairments, it counsels in favor of the postural and
exertional limitations indicated herein.
AR 20 (emphasis added). The ALJ also addressed the exertional
limitations caused by her obesity and other impairments by
limiting Ms. Madrid to light work, despite the fact that the
state agency medical consultants found her capable of
performing medium work. AR 21. The ALJ explicitly stated that
he found Ms. Madrid more limited than the state agency
medical consultants because of his consideration of Ms.
Madrid's “subjective complaints.” AR 21. And,
in consideration of her obesity, the ALJ included postural
limitations in Ms. Madrid's RFC-limiting her to only
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling. AR 19.
Madrid, however, argues that the ALJ failed to discuss the
effect obesity had on her “other impairments, ”
such as her “ability to attend to tasks due to fatigue
and daytime sleepiness.” Doc. 26 at 5. I cannot agree.
Notably, the ALJ did not find fatigue and daytime sleepiness
to be medically determinable impairments, so they are,
instead, symptoms. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1529(d)(1) (describing fatigue as a symptom). In
evaluating symptoms in disability claims, the ALJ is required
to undertake a two-step analysis: (1) determine whether there
is an underlying medically determinable physical or mental
impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce a
claimant's symptoms, such as pain; and (2) evaluate the
intensity and persistence of claimant's symptoms to
determine how these symptoms limit claimant's ability to
work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(b)-(c)(1). “In
considering the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of an individual's symptoms, [the ALJ] examine[s] the
entire case record, including the objective medical evidence;
an individual's statements about the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of symptoms; statements and
other information provided by medical sources and other
persons; and any other relevant evidence in the
individual's case record.” SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL
119029, at *2 (Mar. 16, 2016).
ALJ's decision makes clear that he considered Ms.
Madrid's testimony about her symptoms, including her
fatigue and daytime sleepiness. The ALJ discussed Ms.
Madrid's hearing testimony and statements submitted as
part of her Social Security disability application-in which
she complained of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder, pain,
difficulty sleeping, and lack of motivation. AR 20. The ALJ
considered her reported symptoms and limitations, but found
that her “claims of such limited daily activities . . .
[were] generally unsubstantiated by the medical evidence of
record.” AR 20. The ALJ reviewed the medical evidence
from the relevant time period-which consisted of some
treatment for back, hip, and foot pain, and some physical
therapy for back pain. AR 20. The ALJ reasonably concluded
that the medical evidence did not substantiate her claimed
limitations, including limitations resulting from fatigue and
sleepiness, and did not preclude her from all work as she
alleged. See AR 20.
Madrid argues that the ALJ erred in finding her complaints
about fatigue, sleepiness and depression unsubstantiated by
the medical evidence of record; however none of the medical
evidence she references falls within the relevant time period
between October 6, 2009 and September 30, 2010. See
Doc. 26 at 6-7. In addition, the ALJ found no “minimal
objective findings to support her allegations of a disabling
impairment during the relevant period of alleged
disability, ” AR 20 (emphasis added), and Ms.
Madrid does not point to anything in the record that
contradicts this determination. Finally, the ALJ found that
Ms. Madrid's statements “concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of [her] symptoms”
not credible and gave her testimony “little
weight.” AR 20-21. Ms. Madrid's argument that the
ALJ's credibility analysis is flawed is without merit.
See discussion infra.
ALJ's decision shows that he adequately considered Ms.
Madrid's reported symptoms, including her fatigue and
daytime sleepiness. The ALJ also explained why he did not
find her as limited as she reported. This Court may neither
reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner. Flaherty, 515 F.3d at 1070. I
therefore recommend that the Court affirm the ALJ's
The ALJ's credibility determination is supported by
Madrid argues that the ALJ's credibility determination is
not supported by substantial evidence, and that remand
therefore is required. Doc. 26 at 8. Specifically, Ms. Madrid
argues that the ALJ erred in finding that her sporadic
performance of household tasks establishes that she is able
to engage in substantial gainful activity. Id. She
also argues that the ALJ mischaracterized the extent of her
daily activities. Doc. 26 at 10-11. The Commissioner counters
that the ALJ gave good reasons for his credibility
determination-including his findings that Ms. Madrid engaged
in a variety of daily activities during the relevant time
period, took minimal medications, and sought little medical
treatment during the relevant time period. Doc. 32 at 5-6.
For the reasons discussed below, I agree with the
Court may not re-weigh the evidence; it may only review the
ALJ's decision to ensure that he applied the correct
legal standards, and that his findings are supported by
substantial evidence. Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d
1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). Courts generally defer to the
ALJ's credibility findings because “[c]redibility
determinations are peculiarly the province of the finder of
fact, and we will not upset such determinations when
supported by substantial evidence.” Hackett v.
Barnett, 395 F.3d 1168, 1173 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal
quotation and citation omitted). However, “findings as
to credibility should be closely and affirmatively linked to
substantial evidence and not just a conclusion in the guise
of findings.” Id. (internal quotation and
citation omitted). While the Tenth Circuit “does not
require a formalistic factor-by-factor recitation of the
evidence, ” the ALJ must set forth the specific
evidence relied upon in evaluating the claimant's
credibility. White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d 903, 909
(10th Cir. 2001), as amended on denial of reh'g
(Apr. 5, 2002). Finally, in evaluating the limiting effects
of a claimant's symptoms, the ALJ considers the following
(i) Your daily activities;
(ii) The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of your
pain or other symptoms;
(iii) Precipitating and aggravating factors;
(iv) The type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any
medication you take or have taken to alleviate your pain or
(v) Treatment, other than medication, you receive or have
received for relief of your pain or other symptoms;
(vi) Any measures you use or have used to relieve your pain
or other symptoms (e.g., lying flat on your back, standing
for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, sleeping on a board, etc.);
(vii) Other factors concerning your functional limitations
and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3); see also SSR 96-7p,
1996 WL 374186, at *3 (July 2, 1996); SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL
1119029, at *7 (Mar. 16, 2016).
the ALJ considered both Ms. Madrid's hearing testimony
and the statements she submitted as part of her disability
application. AR 20. The ALJ's decision makes it clear
that he considered Ms. Madrid's claimed impairments as
well as her claims of pain and fatigue symptoms. AR 20
(referencing Exhibit 3E/2 and 6E/1). The ALJ, however, found
Ms. Madrid's statements about the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effects of her symptoms “not entirely
credible.” AR 20-21. While the ALJ framed his
discussion as one of credibility-a term no longer used in the
current SSR-the ALJ properly applied the regulatory factors
in analyzing Ms. Madrid's symptoms.
linked his findings about Ms. Madrid's symptoms to
substantial evidence, using the factors outlined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1529(c)(3), SSR 96-7p, and SSR 16-3p. First, the
ALJ found that Ms. Madrid's daily activities were not as
limited as she claimed, finding that “[a]lthough the
claimant alleged disabling impairments, she was able to work
part-time for 20 hours per week and simultaneously take
online courses from March-September 2010[, ]” during
which time she only missed four to five days of work. AR 21.
The ALJ further found that Ms. Madrid “cared for her
son during her period of alleged disability, while holding
down these other responsibilities.” AR 21.
Madrid admits that the nature of her daily activities is a
valid factor for the ALJ to consider, but argues that
“the sporadic performance of household tasks or work
does not establish that a person is capable of engaging in
substantial gainful activity.” Doc. 26 at 8 (citing
Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1332-33 (10th Cir.
2011) and Thompson v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 1482, 1490
(10th Cir. 1993)). The ALJ's opinion, unlike Ms.
Madrid's brief, focused on the evidence about Ms.
Madrid's daily activities during the relevant time
period-from October 6, 2009 through September 30, 2010. The
ALJ relied on more than the “sporadic performance of
household tasks or work” to find that Ms. Madrid could
engage in substantial gainful activity. He relied on the
statements of two state agency medical consultants who found
her capable of performing medium work, and on clear evidence
of record showing that, during the relevant time period, Ms.
Madrid worked 20 hours per week while taking college courses
and tending to the basic needs of her home and minor child.
See AR 21.
Madrid argues that the ALJ mischaracterized the evidence
about her daily activities: stating that she cared for her
son, when the record shows that her son cared for her;
failing to state that her part-time work was only four hours
a day; and failing to state that her college coursework
consisted of only one course at a time. Doc. 26 at 10. I am
not convinced that the ALJ mischaracterized the evidence, and
any omissions are technical rather than the type of
mischaracterization that the Tenth Circuit has held required
remand. See Krauser, 638 F.3d at 1332-33 (ALJ's
finding that claimant “exercised, watched television,
did yard work, helped with housework, and did his own
laundry” misrepresented the evidence, which showed that
claimant could only exercise for four or five minutes at a
time, spent ten to fifteen minutes once every week or two
working in the yard, and his only housework consisted of
putting dishes in the dishwasher and “halfway”
making his bed); Sitsler v. Astrue, 410 F. App'x
112, 114, 118 (ALJ misrepresented the evidence by stating
that claimant “cares for his two small children,
” “is able to do some house work such as dusting
and vacuuming, ” and “can drive a car, [and] go
shopping” when the record showed that claimant
“has help from relatives in caring for his children; he
usually has no energy to do housework; he makes only simple
meals; he shops for 1-2 hours at most; he washes dishes for
only a few minutes; he vacuums only once a week for a few
minutes; and he does not drive very much.”).
Krauser and Sistler, the ALJ in this case
did not misrepresent the evidence. The ALJ's statements
that Ms. Madrid “provided care for her son, ” AR
18, and that she “cared for her son, ” AR 21, are
supported by the record. Ms. Madrid's initial report of
daily activities on March 12, 2012 indicated that she
shopped, did laundry, cleaned, and cooked simple meals with
the help of her son. AR 169. Ms. Madrid's sister stated
in April 2012 that Ms. Madrid cared for her son by buying
groceries, preparing simple meals, driving him, and helping
him with his homework. AR 179. The ALJ's statements do
not mischaracterize these facts. Furthermore, although Ms.
Madrid claims that “a review of [her] testimony and
written statements shows that her son actually cares for her
and does many of the household chores because [she] is unable
to perform them, ” Doc. 26 at 10, there is not
substantial evidence showing she had these limitations during
the relevant time period. The record shows that Ms. Madrid
was diagnosed with several new medically determinable
impairments after the relevant time period-including
pancreatitis, a hernia, and a thyroid disorder. AR 17, 186,
598, 600. In addition, Ms. Madrid testified that her health
deteriorated after her last insured Dated: “My health
went down the tubes during my student and my teaching
training [in March 2012] and it culminated in a complete
physical collapse.” AR 59; see also AR 596-97.
Her disability report for her appeal, dated August 3, 2012,
AR 186, lists “severe fatigue” as a “new
limitation” since her last disability report in
February and March of 2012, AR 158-70. Her reported symptoms
also show that she became more limited over time: on March
12, 2012 she reported that she fed the dogs and did the
dishes, AR 169, but by January 1, 2014, she reported that her
son fed the dogs and that she could not do a full load of
dishes, AR 44-45, 56. Thus, while Ms. Madrid points to
several statements she made at the January 8, 2014 ALJ
hearing as proof that her son cared for her rather than the
other way around-she made these statements more than three
years after the relevant time period, and after her health
had further deteriorated.
also was accurate in stating that Ms. Madrid worked part time
and attended college during the relevant time period. His
failure to state explicitly that Ms. Madrid's part time
work was four hours a day, five days a week, or that her
college course work was one course at a time, is not the type
of omission that requires remand.
Where, as here, we can follow the adjudicator's reasoning
in conducting our review, and can determine that correct
legal standards have been applied, merely technical omissions
in the ALJ's reasoning do not dictate reversal. In
conducting our review, we should, indeed must, exercise
common sense. The more comprehensive the ALJ's
explanation, the easier our task; but we cannot insist on
Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue, 695 F.3d 1156, 1166 (10th
addition, the ALJ discussed the medications and treatment Ms.
Madrid received for her conditions, two other factors the ALJ
was required to consider under 20 C.F.R. §
404.1529(c)(3), SSR 96-7p, and SSR 16-3p. The ALJ pointed out
that, despite Ms. Madrid's claims of disabling
She is currently only taking Prilosec. While the claimant
testified she cannot afford other medications[, ] she has
some form of insurance and sees a primary care doctor. There
is no evidence that the claimant has sought any subsidized
AR 21. The ALJ further noted that Ms. Madrid received minimal
medical treatment during the relevant time period, and that
the medical records for the relevant time period
“contain minimal objective findings to support her
allegation of a disabling impairment.” AR 20. Under SSR
16-3p, “[a] report of minimal . . . findings . . . in
the objective medical evidence is one of the many factors [an
ALJ] must consider in evaluating the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effects of an individual's symptoms.”
SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL 1119029, at *5.
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's evaluation of Ms.
Madrid's symptoms. I therefore do not recommend remand.
properly considered the combined effect of Ms. Madrid's
impairments, including the effects of her obesity, and
supported his credibility determinations about the severity
of her symptoms with substantial evidence. I recommend that
the Court DENY Ms. Madrid's Motion to Reverse and Remand
PARTIES ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED THAT WITHIN 14 DAYS OF SERVICE
of a copy of these Proposed Findings and Recommended
Disposition, they may file written objections with the Clerk
of the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C). A party must file any objections with the Clerk
of the District Court within the fourteen-day period if that
party wants to have appellate review of the proposed findings
and recommended disposition. If no objections are filed, no
appellate review will be allowed.
 The Court's review is limited to
the Commissioner's final decision, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), which generally is the ALJ's decision, 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, as it is in this case.
 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.
 Ms. Madrid worked part time (20 hours
per week) as a receptionist from March 2010 until September
2010. AR 16. However, the ALJ found that she earned less than
the $1, 000 per month necessary to constitute substantial
gainful activity. AR 16-17.
 The ALJ found that Ms. Madrid also
suffered from the severe impairments of pancreatitis, a
hernia, a thyroid disorder, as well as nonsevere impairments
of latex and adhesive allergies. AR 17. However, the ALJ
found that these medically determinable impairments occurred
after Ms. Madrid's last insured date, and therefore were
not relevant to her claim. Id.
 It appears that the ALJ's
statement that Ms. Madrid could do “medium” work,
AR 19, is a typographical error, and that the ALJ meant to
say she was capable of doing light work. See AR 22
(“The claimant's current [RFC] limits her to light
exertional work with limitations in postural
activities.”); AR 23 (discussing Ms. Madrid's
ability to do less than a “full range of light
work”); AR 71 (where the ALJ asks VE to consider a
person “who can do work at the light exertional
level” with all of the additional limitations later
adopted in the RFC findings). None of Ms. Madrid's
arguments turn on this issue. I therefore find this error to
 SSRs are binding on the SSA, and while
they do not have the force of law, courts traditionally defer
to SSRs because they constitute the agency's
interpretation of its own regulations and foundational
statutes. See 20 C.F.R. § 402.35; Sullivan
v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 531 n.9 (1990); see also
Andrade v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 985
F.2d 1045, 1051 (10th Cir. 1993) (SSRs entitled to
 See footnote 5,
 Ms. Madrid argues that her sleep apnea
was severe, and that the ALJ erred in finding it non-severe.
Doc. 33 at 2-3. The ALJ determines which of claimant's
medically determinable impairments, or a combination thereof,
is “severe” at step two of the sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). An ALJ's failure to find a particular
impairment severe at step two is not reversible error as long
as the ALJ finds that at least one other impairment is
severe. Dray v. Astrue, 353 F. App'x 147, 149
(10th Cir. 2009) (unpublished) (citing Oldham v.
Astrue, 509 F.3d 1254, 1256 (10th Cir. 2007)); see
also Carpenter v. Astrue, 537 F.3d 1264, 1266 (10th Cir.
2008). This is because, “in assessing the
claimant's RFC, the ALJ must consider the combined effect
of all of the claimant's medically determinable
impairments, whether severe or not severe.”
Wells v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1065 (10th Cir.
2013) (emphasis in original) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1545(a)(2), 416.945(a)(2)). As discussed above, I find
that the ALJ adequately considered the combined effect of all
of Ms. Madrid's medically determinable
 SSR 96-7p was replaced by SSR 16-3p
during the pendency of this appeal. SSR 16-3p eliminated the
use of the term “credibility” to clarify that
“subjective symptom evaluation is not an examination of
an individual's character.” SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL
1119029, at *1. Both SSRs direct the ALJ to consider an
individual's statements about the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effects of symptoms. SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186,
at *1; SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL 1119029, at *4. Both SSRs also
direct the ALJ to apply the same seven regulatory factors in
evaluating the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of the claimant's symptoms. SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at
*3; SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL 1119029, at *7.