United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STEPHAN M. VIDMAR, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing with Supporting Memorandum
[Doc. 22] (“Motion”), filed on May 4, 2017. The
Commissioner responded on June 28, 2017. [Doc. 23]. Plaintiff
replied on July 14, 2017. [Doc. 24]. The parties have
consented to the undersigned's entering final judgment in
this case. [Doc. 32]. Having meticulously reviewed the entire
record and being fully advised in the premises, the Court
finds that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
applied the correct legal standards and her decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Motion
will be denied, and Commissioner's final decision,
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). 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). Courts
must meticulously review the entire record, but may neither
reweigh the evidence nor substitute their judgment for that
of the Commissioner. Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d
1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007).
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118. The 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.” Id. While a court
may not reweigh the evidence or try the issues de novo, its
examination of the record as a whole must include
“anything that may undercut or detract from the
[Commissioner]'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] findings
from being supported by substantial evidence.” Lax
v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Zoltanski v. FAA, 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (10th Cir.
failure to apply the correct legal standard or to provide
this court with a sufficient basis to determine that
appropriate legal principles have been followed is grounds
for reversal.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d
1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks
Law and Sequential Evaluation Processes
order to qualify for disability benefits, an adult
claimant must establish that he 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); 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.905(a). A child claimant, however, must
establish that he “has a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and
severe functional limitations, and 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)(C); 20 C.F.R.
considering a disability application for an adult,
the Commissioner is required to use a five-step sequential
evaluation process (“SEP”). 20 C.F.R. §
416.920; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987).
At the first four steps of the SEP, the claimant must show:
(1) he is not engaged in “substantial gainful
activity”; and (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 (3) his
impairment(s) either meet or equal one of the Listings of
presumptively disabling impairments; or (4) he is
unable to perform his “past relevant work.” 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i-iv); Grogan, 399 F.3d
at 1261. If he cannot show that his impairment meets or
equals a Listing, but he proves that he is unable to perform
his “past relevant work, ” the burden of proof
then shifts to the Commissioner, at step five, to show that
the claimant is able to perform other work in the national
economy, considering his residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), age, education, and work experience.
“test for determining whether a child claimant
is disabled is an abbreviated version of the adult [5-step
SEP].” Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 526
(1990). Rather than five steps, the ALJ uses three steps, the
first two of which mirror the first two adult steps. See
Id. A child under 18 years of age is
“disabled” and eligible for SSI benefits if the
child (1) is not doing substantial gainful activity; (2) has
a medically determinable impairment or combination of
impairments that is severe; and (3) the impairment or
combination of impairments meets, medically equals, or
functionally equals the Listings for disability at 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and otherwise meets the
applicable duration requirement. 20 C.F.R. §
416.924(a)-(d); see also Id. § 416.906
(specifying duration requirement). A child's impairment
or combination of impairments functionally equals the
listings and, thus, constitutes a disability, when it results
in “marked” limitations in two domains or an
“extreme” limitation in one domain, as described
in 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a. The Commissioner assesses how a
child functions “‘in terms of six domains: (i)
Acquiring and using information; (ii) Attending and
completing tasks; (iii) Interacting and relating with others;
(iv) Moving about and manipulating objects; (v) Caring for
[ones]self; and, (vi) Health and physical
well-being.'” Briggs ex rel. Briggs v.
Massanari, 248 F.3d 1235, 1238 (10th Cir. 2001)
(footnote omitted) (quoting 20 C.F.R. §
application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) was filed on Plaintiff's
behalf-because he was under 18 years of age-on June 30, 2011.
Tr. 10. His claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. Id. Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an ALJ. Id. ALJ Charlotte A. Wright held a
hearing on January 8, 2015, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tr.
10, 32. Plaintiff and his mother, Shanna Marie Kayser,
appeared in person, along with Plaintiff's attorney. Tr.
10, 32. The ALJ took testimony from Plaintiff, Ms. Kayser,
and an impartial vocational expert (“VE”), Leslie
J. White. Tr. 10, 32-72.
issued her unfavorable decision on March 30, 2015. Tr. 25. At
step one of the child SEP, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had
never engaged in substantial, gainful activity. Tr. 14. Next,
at step two she found that Plaintiff suffered from one severe
impairment: hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia
(“HED”). Tr. 15. She further found that
Plaintiff's personality disorder-intellectual impairment
(diagnosed by the consultative examiner), asthma, and his
eye/vision problems were not severe. Tr. 15-16.
three of the child SEP, the ALJ found that none of
Plaintiff's impairments, alone or in combination, met or
medically equaled a Listing. Tr. 17. She further found that
Plaintiff's impairments, alone or combination, failed to
functionally equal a Listing. Id. at 17-23.
Accordingly, the ALJ found that before attaining age 18,
Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at 23.
determined that Plaintiff was not disabled before he turned
18, the ALJ proceeded with the remaining adult SEP steps. At
step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no new severe
impairments since turning 18 years old. Id. She
further found at step three that Plaintiff had no impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
Listing. Id. Because none of Plaintiff's
impairments met a Listing, the ALJ went on to assess
Plaintiff's RFC. Tr. 23-24.
[S]ince attaining age 18, [Plaintiff] has had the [RFC] to
perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R. §]
416.967(b). He can occasionally lift/carry 20 pounds, 10
pounds frequently. He can sit, stand[, ] and walk six hours
in an eight-hour workday. He can occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, and climb ramps/stairs but not ladders,
ropes[, ] or scaffolds. He has to work in an air
condition[ed] environment with available water-fountain or
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past relevant work.
Tr. 24. Accordingly, she proceeded to step five, where she
relied on testimony by the VE to find that, based on
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, he
was capable of performing other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. Tr. 24-25.
the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined by
the Social Security Act, and she denied the claim. Tr. 25.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on June 26, 2016. Tr. 1-4. ...