United States District Court, D. New Mexico
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
William P. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge
Davis applied for supplemental security income on April 8,
2011, alleging disability beginning on May 30, 2002, from
“Bipolar, anxiety, PTSD, Chromes Disease,
Depression” [sic]. (Administrative Record
“AR” 129, 146, 150.) After her application was
denied at all administrative levels, she brought this
proceeding for judicial review. The case is before me on her
Fact and Law Summary, which was filed in the Western District
of Kentucky and later transferred to this District; a
response filed by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”); and Davis's reply.
(Docs. 13, 16, 30, 31.) For the reasons explained below, I
recommend that the Court grant Davis's motion and remand
this case to the SSA.
reviewing the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) decision, the Court must determine
whether it is supported by substantial evidence in the record
and whether the correct legal standards were applied.
Maes v. Astrue, 522 F.3d 1093, 1096 (10th Cir.
2008). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Langley v. Barnhart, 373 F.3d
1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted). A decision
is not based on substantial evidence if other evidence in the
record overwhelms it or if there is a mere scintilla of
evidence supporting it. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d
1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence does not,
however, require a preponderance of the evidence. U.S.
Cellular Tel. of Greater Tulsa, L.L.C. v. City of Broken
Arrow, Okla., 340 F.3d 1122, 1133 (10th Cir. 2003). The
Court must meticulously examine the record, but it may
neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its discretion
for that of the Commissioner. Hamlin, 365 F.3d at
1214. The Court may reverse and remand if the ALJ failed
“to apply the correct legal standards, or to show us
that she has done so . . . .” Winfrey v.
Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir. 1996).
has devised a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine disability. See Barnhart v. Thomas, 540
U.S. 20, 24 (2003); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) (2015). If
a finding of disability or nondisability is directed at any
point, the ALJ will not proceed through the remaining steps.
Thomas, 540 U.S. at 24. At the first three steps,
the ALJ considers the claimant's current work activity,
the medical severity of the claimant's impairments, and
the requirements of the Listing of Impairments. See
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4), & Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App'x 1. If a claimant's impairments are not equal to
one of those in the Listing of Impairments, then the ALJ
proceeds to the first of three phases of step four and
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). See Winfrey, 92 F.3d at 1023;
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). The ALJ then determines the
physical and mental demands of the claimant's past
relevant work in phase two of the fourth step and, in the
third phase, compares the claimant's RFC with the
functional requirements of her past relevant work to see if
the claimant is still capable of performing her past work.
See Winfrey, 92 F.3d at 1023; 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(f). If a claimant is not prevented from performing
her past work, then she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(f). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the
question of disability for the first four steps, and then the
burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five.
See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 (1987);
Talbot v. Heckler, 814 F.2d 1456, 1460 (10th Cir.
1987). If the claimant cannot return to her past work, then
the Commissioner bears the burden, at the fifth step, of
showing that the claimant is capable of performing other jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
See Thomas, 540 U.S. at 24-25; see also Williams
v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-51 (10th Cir. 1988)
(discussing the five-step sequential evaluation process in
is forty-six years old. (AR 146.) She has a high school
education and previously worked as a “Laborer” at
a restaurant. (AR 151.)
not address everything in the record but rather target my
factual discussion to those facts necessary to the
disposition of this case.
states that she stopped working in 1990 because of her
conditions. (AR 150.) Though the relevant period of
disability began in 2011, she reported being diagnosed with
bipolar disorder in 2002 and undergoing a psychiatric
admission to the hospital in 2008. (AR 337, 339.)
2011, Davis saw Jeremy Edmonds, D.O., who the ALJ later
classified as a treating physician (see AR 28), six
times between February and May to obtain medications and
treatment for depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and skin
issues, among others. (See AR 285-300.) Dr. Edmonds
noted during the March 28, 2011, visit that “in my
medical opinion . . . she is unable to work due to mental
disease” and referred Davis to “[V]alencia
[C]ounseling.” (AR 300.)
April 14, 2011, Davis underwent an Initial Evaluation at
Valencia Counseling. (AR 388-403.) Barbara Rattenborg, LSW,
noted that Davis “reports symptoms of [b]ipolar and
domestic violence with husband. [Davis] currently living with
Grandmother, but reports he continues to harass her.”
2, 2011, Melanie Marie Falgout, M.D., performed a
consultative examination (AR 337-340) and concluded that
“[w]ith regard to the multiple psychiatric evaluations,
no findings on exam other than that she mentated somewhat
slowly and appeared to be very nervous” (AR 340).
29, 2011, Mary S. Loescher, Ph.D., performed a consultative
examination (AR 342-345) and concluded that Davis had two
severe workplace limitations-“her ability to
understand, remember and follow through on basic work
instructions” and “her ability to manage stress