United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE
JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
MATTER comes before the Court on plaintiff Cindy Madrid's
objections to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings
and Recommended Disposition (“PF&RD”), which were
filed on January 3, 2017. Doc. 35. The Commissioner filed a
response to the objections on January 17, 2017. Doc. 37. This
matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing to
recommend a disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).
Doc. 21. Judge Fashing issued her PF&RD on December 20, 2016,
recommending that the Court deny the motion to reverse or
remand. Doc. 34. In her objections, Ms. Madrid argues that
the magistrate judge erred in finding that the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly considered the
combination of her impairments, including her obesity, and in
finding that the ALJ's credibility determination was
supported by substantial evidence. Doc. 35. Following a de
novo review of these issues, I overrule Ms. Madrid's
objections and adopt the magistrate judge's PF&RD.
The ALJ properly considered the combination of Ms.
Madrid's impairments, including her
objections, Ms. Madrid reiterates verbatim many of the same
arguments made in her motion to reverse and remand. Ms.
Madrid renews her arguments that the ALJ failed to adequately
consider the effects of her obesity, failed to adequately
consider her obesity in combination with her other
impairments, and failed to adequately address her fatigue and
daytime sleepiness. Doc. 35 at 1-3. I disagree. Like the
magistrate judge, I find that the ALJ adequately considered
the effects of Ms. Madrid's obesity, her obesity in
combination with her other impairments, and her exertional
limitations. As the magistrate judge stated, “the ALJ
explicitly stated that he considered SSR 02-1p and considered
the effects of Ms. Madrid's obesity in formulating her
RFC.” Doc. 34 at 8. In addition, the ALJ's opinion
shows that he considered Ms. Madrid's obesity in
combination with her other impairments:
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.
20 (emphasis added). Finally, as the
magistrate judge concluded, the ALJ adequately addressed Ms.
Madrid's exertional limitations by limiting her to light
work, despite the fact that the state agency medical
consultants found her capable of doing medium work, and by
including postural limitations in her residual functional
capacity. Doc. 34 at 8-9 (citing AR 19, 21).
agree with the magistrate judge that the ALJ adequately
considered Ms. Madrid's symptoms of fatigue and daytime
sleepiness. As the magistrate judge pointed out, fatigue and
sleepiness are not medically determinable impairments in Ms.
Madrid's case, but are instead symptoms. Doc. 34 at 9.
The ALJ properly analyzed the limiting effects of Ms.
Madrid's fatigue and daytime sleepiness, and adequately
considered her reported symptoms and limitations, but found
that the medical evidence from the relevant time period did
not substantiate her claimed limitations. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1529(b)-(c)(1); SSR 16-3p, 2016 WL 119029,
at *2 (Mar. 16, 2016) (“In considering the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of an individual's
symptoms, we examine 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.”) As the
magistrate judge pointed out,
The 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.
Doc. 34 at 9-10. The ALJ was not required to do more.
Madrid specifically objects to the magistrate judge's
finding that the evidence she cites for her arguments falls
outside of the relevant time period-contending that the
evidence after the relevant period “represents later
diagnoses of conditions she was suffering from during the
years prior.” Doc. 35 at 3. Ms. Madrid's conclusory
argument is unavailing. “The claimant bears the burden
of establishing a prima facie case of disability at steps one
through four.” Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d
1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). The relevant time period for
determining disability status is from the onset date through
the date the claimant is last insured for disability
benefits. See Hendron v. Colvin, 767 F.3d 951, 953
(10th Cir. 2014); Bigpond v. Astrue, 280 F.
App'x 716, 717 (10th Cir. 2008) (unpublished); Hill
v. Astrue, 289 F. App'x 289, 291 (10th Cir. 2008)
(unpublished). Thus, as part of her burden of proof, Ms.
Madrid was required to show that she became disabled before
the date she was last insured, September 30,
2010. The ALJ found that Ms. Madrid failed
to meet this burden. Because the ALJ supported his findings
with substantial evidence and applied the correct legal
standards, the Commissioner's decision stands, and Ms.
Madrid is not entitled to relief. See Langley v.
Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004).
The ALJ's credibility determination is supported by
Madrid objects to the magistrate judge's finding that the
ALJ's credibility determination is supported by
substantial evidence. Ms. Madrid once again reiterates many
of the same arguments made in her motion to reverse and
remand. Ms. Madrid argues that the ALJ mischaracterized the
extent of her daily activities. Doc. 35 at 4. The magistrate
judge found that the ALJ did not mischaracterize the
evidence, and that “any omissions are technical rather
than the type of mischaracterization that the Tenth Circuit
has held required remand.” Doc. 34 at 14. I agree with
the magistrate judge's analysis and conclusions on this
issue, and adopt them. See Doc. 34 at 15-16. Like
the magistrate judge, I find that the “ALJ 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.” Doc. 34 at
Madrid's argues that “[t]hough Judge Fashing
contends that most of Madrid's limitations were not in
effect until after the expiration of her insured period,
there is nothing in the record to suggest that these
limitations were not in effect during that time or that her
limitations during the time under consideration for her Title
II claim were not equally limiting.” Doc. 35 at 5. Ms.
Madrid, however, has the burden of proof to show that she was
disabled before the date she was last insured.
Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261. Neither the ALJ nor the
Commissioner has the burden to show that the limitations were
not in effect during the relevant time period.
Madrid also argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding
that the ALJ properly used Ms. Madrid's
“limited” treatment as a basis for finding her
allegations of disability not credible. Doc. 35 at 6.
However, the amount of treatment, other than medication, a
claimant has received for relief of his or her pain or
symptoms is a valid factor for the ALJ to consider when
assessing the severity of a claimant's symptoms. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3)(v). Ms. Madrid is correct in
pointing out that
the adjudicator must not draw any inferences about an
individual's symptoms and their functional effects from a
failure to seek or pursue regular medical treatment without
first considering any explanations that the individual may
provide, or other information in the case record, that may