United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER DENYING REMAND
GREGORY B. WORMUTH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand the Social Security Agency (“SSA”)
decision to deny Plaintiff Social Security Disability
Insurance benefits (“SSDI”). Doc. 17. For the
reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED,
and this action is DISMISSED with prejudice.
filed an initial application for SSDI on September 9, 2013.
AR at 165-68. Plaintiff alleged that he had a disability
resulting from a fracture of his left tibia, injured
shoulder, foot pain and insomnia. AR at 192. His application
was denied on initial review on October 21, 2013 and again on
reconsideration on January 14, 2014. AR at 103-07, 109- 14.
On February 12, 2014, Plaintiff requested a hearing on the
determination by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), and the hearing before the ALJ took
place on May 29, 2015. AR at 125-26, 61-101. On July 10,
2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision, finding that
Plaintiff could return to his past relevant work as a route
salesman/sales route driver and was therefore not disabled.
AR at 43-49. Notwithstanding that finding, the ALJ proceeded
to step five of the five-step disability evaluation and found
in the alternative that Plaintiff could perform other jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
including the jobs of kitchen helper, hospital cleaner, or
industrial sweeper/cleaner. AR at 49-50. The ALJ therefore
found that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR at 50.
appealed the denial of his application to the Appeals
Council, which denied review on December 23, 2016. AR at 1-3.
Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on February 17, 2017,
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) (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.” 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).
asserts that the ALJ erred by conducting a flawed analysis
and determination of Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), and that the Appeals Council
erred by failing to properly consider new qualifying
evidence. Doc. 17 at 6-9. Defendant argues that the
ALJ properly analyzed and determined Plaintiff's RFC and
that the Appeals Council did not err, because the additional
evidence considered by the Appeals Council does not cast
doubt on the ALJ's decision. Doc. 19 at 7-11.
Ultimately, the Court concludes that the ALJ's
determination of Plaintiff's RFC comported with the
applicable legal standards and was supported by substantial
evidence, and that the additional evidence that Plaintiff
submitted to the Appeals Council would not have changed the
purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). To
determine whether a person satisfies these criteria, the SSA
has developed a five-step test. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. If the Commissioner finds an individual disabled at
any step, the next step is not taken. Id. §
first four steps of the analysis, the claimant has the burden
to show: (1) he is not engaged in “substantial gainful
activity;” (2) he has a “severe medically
determinable . . . impairment . . . or a combination of
impairments” that has lasted or is expected to last for
at least one year; and that either (3) his impairments meet
or equal one of the “Listings” of presumptively
disabling impairments; or (4) he is unable to perform his
“past relevant work.” Id. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d
1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005).
four of this analysis consists of three phases. Winfrey
v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1023 (10th Cir. 1996). First,
the ALJ determines the claimant's RFC in light of
“all of the relevant medical and other evidence.”
20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3). A claimant's RFC is
“the most [he] can still do despite [physical and
mental] limitations.” Id. §
404.1545(a)(1). Second, the ALJ determines the physical and
mental demands of the claimant's past work. “To
make the necessary findings, the ALJ must obtain adequate
‘factual information about those work demands which
have a bearing on the medically established
limitations.'” Winfrey, 92 F.3d at 1024
(quoting Social Security Ruling (SSR) 82- 62 (1982)). Third,
the ALJ determines whether, in light of the RFC, the claimant
is capable of meeting those demands. Id. at 1023,
ALJ concludes that the claimant cannot engage in past
relevant work, the ALJ then proceeds to step five of the
evaluation process. At step five, the burden of proof shifts
to the Commissioner to show the claimant is able to perform
other work in the national economy, considering the
claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and work experience. Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1257.