United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
KHALSA United States Magistrate Judge
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the
Social Security Administrative Record (Doc. 16) filed
November 10, 2016 in support of Plaintiff Karen Arlene
Garcia's (“Plaintiff”) Complaint (Doc. 1)
seeking review of the decision of Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration, (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claims
for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI
supplemental security income. On January 20, 2017, Plaintiff
filed her Motion to Reverse and Remand for Rehearing With
Supporting Memorandum (“Motion”). (Doc. 21.) The
Commissioner filed a Response in opposition on March 21, 2017
(Doc. 23), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on April 4, 2017.
(Doc. 24.) The Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Having meticulously reviewed
the entire record and the applicable law and being fully
advised in the premises, the Court finds the Motion is well
taken and is GRANTED.
Background and Procedural Record
Karen Arlene Garcia (“Ms. Garcia”) alleges that
she became disabled on January 2, 2012, at the age of
forty-eight because of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis,
anemia, cataracts, and high cholesterol. (Tr. 194,
198.) Ms. Garcia has two years of college, and
worked as an accounts payable clerk, file clerk, home
healthcare assistant, receptionist, and sewing operator. (Tr.
October 4, 2012, Ms. Garcia protectively filed an application
for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et
seq., and concurrently filed an application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. (Tr.
165-70, 195.) Ms. Garcia's applications were initially
denied on March 8, 2013. (Tr. 59, 60, 61-69, 70-78.) They
were denied again at reconsideration on July 24, 2013. (Tr.
79-88, 89-98, 99, 100.) On August 14, 2013, Ms. Garcia
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 117-18.) The ALJ conducted a
hearing on November 5, 2014. (Tr. 39-58.) Ms. Garcia appeared
in person at the hearing with attorney Lisa
Mobley. (Id.) The ALJ took testimony from
Ms. Garcia (Tr. 41-55), and an impartial vocational expert
(“VE”), Thomas Griner. (Tr. 55-57.) On January
30, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr.
April 21, 2016, the Appeals Council issued its decision
denying Ms. Garcia's request for review and upholding the
ALJ's final decision. (Tr. 1-7.) On June 24, 2016, Ms.
Garcia timely filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. 1.)
Standard of Review
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether the factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence in the record and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hamlin
v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir.
2004); Langley v. Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118
(10th Cir. 2004). A decision is based on
substantial evidence where it is supported by “relevant
evidence . . . 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[,
]” Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118, or
“constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir.
1992). The Commissioner's decision must “provide
this court with a sufficient basis to determine that
appropriate legal principles have been followed.”
Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d 1163, 1165
(10th Cir. 2005). Therefore, although an ALJ is
not required to discuss every piece of evidence, “the
record must demonstrate that the ALJ considered all of the
evidence, ” and “the [ALJ's] reasons for
finding a claimant not disabled” must be
“articulated with sufficient particularity.”
Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10
(10th Cir. 1996).
considering an application for disability insurance benefits,
the Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation
process. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Bowen
v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). The claimant bears
the burden of establishing a prima facie case of disability
at steps one through four. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv), 416.920(a)(4)(i-iv); Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir.
2005). If the claimant successfully meets that burden, 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 RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(v), 416.920(a)(v); Grogan, 399 F.3d at
made his decision that Ms. Garcia was not disabled at step
four of the sequential evaluation. He found that Ms. Garcia
had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as
defined in 20 CFR §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
she is able to lift 25 pounds frequently, stand and walk for
six hours in an eight-hour workday and sit for more than six
hours in an eight-hour workday. She can frequently stoop and
bend and only occasionally kneel, crouch and crawl.
(Tr. 31.) Based on the RFC and the testimony of the VE, the
ALJ concluded that Ms. Garcia was capable of performing her
past relevant work as a receptionist and that she was
therefore not disabled. (Tr. 33.) On March 12, 2015, Ms.
Garcia requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision and stated she planned to submit additional medical
evidence. (Tr. 8.) On April 22, 2015, Ms. Garcia submitted
additional medical records from the University of New Mexico
Hospital dated January 2, 2015, through January 21, 2105, and
also submitted two medical source statements from CNP Nora
Sanchez dated April 15, 2015. (Tr. 9-10, 453.) The Appeals
Council denied review. (Doc. 1-7.) In so doing, it stated in
[w]e also looked at the Medical Assessment of Ability to Do
Work-Related Activities completed by unknown physician dated
April 15, 2015 (2 pages). The Administrative Law Judge
decided your case through January 30, 2015. This new
information is about a later time. Therefore, it does not
affect the ...