Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chavez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 24, 2017

ISIDRO ROBERTO CHAVEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THE HONORABLE CARMEN E. GARZA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Isidro Roberto Chavez's Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing With Supporting Memorandum (the “Motion”), (Doc. 17), filed June 20, 2017; Defendant Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill's Brief in Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and Remand the Agency's Administrative Decision (the “Response”), (Doc. 19), filed August 21, 2017; and Mr. Chavez's Reply in Support of Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing (the “Reply”), (Doc. 20), filed August 29, 2017.

         Mr. Chavez filed applications for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits on June 24, 2013, alleging disability beginning June 6, 2013. (Administrative Record “AR” 25). Mr. Chavez claimed he was limited in his ability to work due to back pain. (AR 128). Mr. Chavez's applications were denied initially on September 16, 2013, and upon reconsideration on April 4, 2014. (AR 25). Mr. Chavez waived in writing the right to personally appear and testify at a hearing. (AR 93).

         On April 21, 2015, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michelle K. Lindsay issued her decision, finding Mr. Chavez not disabled at any time between his alleged disability onset date through the date of the decision. (AR 36). Mr. Chavez requested review by the Appeals Council, (AR 18), which was denied, (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this appeal.

         Mr. Chavez now argues that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinions of Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) Lita Bailly, and that the Appeals Council failed to properly consider evidence submitted after the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 17 at 8-17). The Court has reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, and the relevant law. Additionally, the Court has meticulously reviewed the administrative record. Because the ALJ erred in her consideration of Ms. Bailly's opinions, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion should be GRANTED IN PART.

         I. Standard of Review

         The standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Maes v. Astrue, 522 F.3d 1093, 1096 (10th Cir. 2008); Hamilton v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 961 F.2d 1495, 1497-98 (10th Cir. 1992). If substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings and the correct legal standards were applied, the Commissioner's decision stands and the plaintiff is not entitled to relief. Langley v. Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004); Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004); Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003). The Commissioner's “failure to apply the correct legal standards, or show . . . that she has done so, are grounds for reversal.” Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir. 1996) (citing Washington v. Shalala, 37 F.3d 1437, 1439 (10th Cir. 1994)). A court should meticulously review the entire record but should neither re- weigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118; Hamlin, 365 F.3d at 1214. A court's review is limited to the Commissioner's final decision, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which is generally the ALJ's decision, rather than the Appeals Council's denial of review. O'Dell v. Shalala, 44 F.3d 855, 858 (10th Cir. 1994).

         “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118; Hamlin, 365 F.3d at 1214; Doyal, 331 F.3d at 760. An ALJ's decision “is not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of evidence supporting” it. Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118; Hamlin, 365 F.3d at 1214. While the Court may not re-weigh the evidence or try the issues de novo, its examination of the record must include “anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2005). “The possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent [the ALJ]'s findings from being supported by substantial evidence.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (10th Cir. 2004)).

         II. Applicable Law and Sequential Evaluation Process

         For purposes of supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits, a claimant establishes a disability when 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) (2015), 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A) (2004); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a) (2012). In order to determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process (“SEP”). Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2012).

         At the first four steps of the SEP, the claimant bears the burden of showing: (1) she is not engaged in “substantial gainful activity”; (2) she 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 either (3) her impairment(s) either meet or equal one of the “Listings”[1] of presumptively disabling impairments; or (4) she is unable to perform her “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv), 416.920(a)(4)(i-iv); see Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). If the ALJ determines the claimant cannot engage in past relevant work, the ALJ will proceed to step five of the evaluation process. At step five the Commissioner must show the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy, considering the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work experience. Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261.

         III. Background

         Mr. Chavez applied for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits due to back pain from his neck to his right leg. (AR 128). At step one, the ALJ determined that Mr. Chavez had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 6, 2013, the alleged onset date. (AR 27). At step two, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Chavez was severely impaired by degenerative disc disease of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine. (AR 27-28). At step three, the ALJ determined that none of Mr. Chavez's impairments, solely or in combination, equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926. (AR 28-29).

         At step four, the ALJ found that Mr. Chavez has the RFC to perform a wide range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). (AR 29). The ALJ additionally found that Mr. Chavez can: lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; frequently climb, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl; stand and/or walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; sit for at ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.