United States District Court, D. New Mexico
JAMES A. KIMES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE OR
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff James
Kimes' Motion to Reverse and Remand the Social Security
Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff
disability insurance benefits. Doc. 17. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's
motion and remand this action to the Commissioner for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
is a sixty-two year old male. Plaintiff filed for disability
on April 30, 2013, alleging disability due to degenerative
disc disease. AR 11, 72. He alleged a disability onset date
of January 16, 2011. AR 11. Plaintiff's claim was
initially denied on August 1, 2013, and upon reconsideration
on October 11, 2013. AR 11. Plaintiff filed a written request
for hearing on November 11, 2013. AR 11. The hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Eric Weiss on January
15, 2015. AR 11. On March 18, 2015, the ALJ issued his
decision denying Plaintiff's claim. AR 18.
the parties are familiar with record in this case, the Court
will discuss Plaintiff's medical history to the extent
that it is relevant to the issues before the Court. Plaintiff
reports a long history of back problems. See AR 220.
In July 2013, Plaintiff received a consultative examination
by Jeffrey Glassheim, D.O. AR 220. Plaintiff reported chronic
lower back pain that was exacerbated by sitting, standing,
and physical activity. AR 220. Plaintiff indicated that he
was unable to obtain treatment for these issues due to
financial limitations. Dr. Glassheim found that Plaintiff has
mild limitations with sitting, standing, and walking due to
degenerative disc disease. AR 225. Dr. Glassheim further
found that Plaintiff has mild limitations with lifting and
carrying weight and limitations in his ability to bend,
stoop, crouch, and squat. AR 225. An x-ray performed that
month showed “relatively advanced multilevel
degenerative disc disease.” AR 228.
2014, after Plaintiff obtained financial support, he was
treated by Dr. Roland Sanchez. AR 241. Plaintiff had two
visits with Dr. Sanchez. Plaintiff reported many of the same
issues as he had with Dr. Glassheim. AR 241. Dr. Sanchez
found that Plaintiff had good muscle coordination and
strength but diminished sensation in his fingers. AR 242. Dr.
Sanchez further found that Plaintiff's cervical spine was
tender to palpation and had restricted motion but was
otherwise normal. AR 242. Dr. Sanchez referred Plaintiff for
an MRI. The MRI showed central canal stenosis at one level
with foraminal compromise, uncovertebral arthritic changes
with bilateral foraminal compromise, and degenerative discs.
AR 252. At a follow up appointment a few months later, Dr.
Sanchez further recorded tenderness in Plaintiff's lower
back, shoulder, wrists, and knees, but noted that his spine
was normal at all levels. AR 246.
2014, Dr. Sanchez completed a form entitled “Medical
Opinion Re: Ability To Do Work-Related Activities.” AR
253. Dr. Sanchez opined that Plaintiff's ability to stand
and walk, as well as sit, was limited to less than two hours.
AR 253. Dr. Sanchez further found that Plaintiff was limited
to carrying less than ten pounds. AR 253. Dr. Sanchez opined
that Plaintiff would need the freedom to shift at will
between sitting and standing and would need to lie down at
unpredictable times during an eight-hour work day. AR 253.
Finally, Dr. Sanchez opined that Plaintiff would, on average,
be absent from work three times a month due to his
limitations. AR 253. In an affidavit, Dr. Sanchez stated that
It is my opinion, based on a reasonable degree of medical
certainty, that in June of 2012, [Plaintiff] (1) would not
have been able to stand and walk for more than 1 hours during
an 8 hour [workday], (2) would not have been able to sit for
more than 1 hours during an 8 hour [workday], (3) would have
had more than 3 absences each month because of the severity
and treatment of his medical condition.
after reviewing the evidence, the ALJ gave “little
weight” to Dr. Sanchez's opinion. AR 15. The ALJ
found that Plaintiff could perform medium work, in that he
could lift and carry fifty pounds occasionally and
twenty-five pounds frequently. AR 14. The ALJ further found
that Plaintiff could stand or walk six hours in an eight-hour
work day and sit for two hours with normal breaks. AR 14.
Finally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could frequently climb
ramps and stairs and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds, as well as occasionally stoop, crouch, and crawl
but frequently kneel. AR 14. The ALJ concluded that there
existed work in significant numbers that Plaintiff could
perform with these limitations. AR 18. Accordingly, the ALJ
denied Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff appealed the
ALJ's determination to the Appeals Council but the
Appeals Council denied his request for review. AR 7. This
Disability Determination Process
claimant is considered disabled for purposes of Social
Security disability insurance benefits if that individual 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). The Social Security Commissioner has adopted a
five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a person
satisfies these statutory criteria. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. The steps of the analysis are as follows:
(1) Claimant must establish that she is not currently engaged
in “substantial gainful activity.” If claimant is
so engaged, she is not disabled and the analysis stops.
(2) Claimant must establish that she has “a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . . or
combination of impairments” that has lasted for at
least one year. If claimant is not so ...