United States District Court, D. New Mexico
FRIDAY L. BODINE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
GREGORY B. WORMUTH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand the Social Security Administration's (SSA)
decision to deny Plaintiff supplemental security income
benefits. Doc. 29. For the reasons discussed below,
I recommend finding that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
evaluate the opinion of Plaintiff's consultative
psychologist. Therefore, I recommend that the Court grant
Plaintiff's motion and remand this action to the
filed an initial application for supplemental security income
(SSI) on August 10, 2010. Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 150-56. Plaintiff alleged that she had
a disability resulting from lethargy, depression, bipolar
disorder, severe panic/anxiety attacks, and memory loss. AR
at 176. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on
August 29, 2013. AR at 30-57.
issued an unfavorable decision on January 28, 2014,
concluding that Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy and therefore was
not disabled. AR at 10-29. Plaintiff appealed the denial of
her application to the Appeals Council, which declined review
on April 27, 2015. AR at 1-3. Plaintiff filed suit in this
Court on June 24, 2015, seeking review of the ALJ's
decision. Doc. 1.
Standard of Review
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a court may review a final
decision of the Commissioner only to determine whether it (1)
is supported by “substantial evidence” and (2)
comports with the proper legal standards. Casias v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800-01
(10th Cir. 1991). “In reviewing the ALJ's decision,
we neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute our judgment
for that of the agency.” Bowman v. Astrue, 511
F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Casias, 933
F.3d at 800. “The record must demonstrate that the ALJ
considered all of the evidence, but an ALJ is not required to
discuss every piece of evidence.” Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10 (10th Cir. 1996).
“[I]n addition to discussing the evidence supporting
his decision, the ALJ must also discuss the uncontroverted
evidence he chooses not to rely upon, as well as
significantly probative evidence he rejects.”
Id. at 1010. “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) (citation omitted).
asserts that the ALJ erred by failing to properly evaluate:
(1) the opinion evidence of Dr. Kenneth Kenney; (2) the
opinion evidence of Dr. Steven Baum; and (3) the opinion
evidence of Plaintiff's former employers. Doc.
30 at 7-14. Defendant argues that the ALJ reasonably
evaluated the opinion evidence of Dr. Kenney, Dr. Baum, and
Plaintiff's employers. See generally doc. 35.
Ultimately, I recommend finding that the ALJ's opinion
must be remanded for failure to properly consider the opinion
evidence of Dr. Kenneth Kenney, and I do not reach the other
purposes of Social Security benefits, an individual is
disabled when 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). To determine
whether a person satisfies these criteria, the SSA has
developed a five-step test. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920. If the Commissioner finds an individual disabled or
not disabled at any step, the next step is not taken.
Id. § 416.920(a)(4).
first four steps of the analysis, the claimant has the burden
to show: (1) she is not engaged in “substantial gainful
activity;” (2) she has a “severe medically
determinable . . . impairment . . . or a combination of
impairments that is severe” that has lasted or is
expected to last for at least one year; and that either (3)
her impairment or impairments meet or equal one of the
“listings” of presumptively disabling
impairments; or (4) she is unable to ...