United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
KHALSA United States Magistrate Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record (Doc. 13) filed December 12, 2016, in
support of Plaintiff Michael Montano's
(“Plaintiff”) Complaint (Doc. 1) seeking review
of the decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
(“Defendant” or “Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's claim for Title XVI supplemental
security income benefits. On February 15, 2017, Plaintiff
filed his Motion to Reverse and Remand for Rehearing With
Supporting Memorandum (“Motion”). (Doc. 17.) The
Commissioner filed a Response in opposition on April 13, 2017
(Doc. 20), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on May 3, 2017. (Doc.
23.) The Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Having meticulously reviewed
the entire record and the applicable law and being fully
advised in the premises, the Court finds the Motion is not
well taken and is DENIED.
Background and Procedural Record
Michael Montaño (“Mr. Montaño”)
alleges that he became disabled on June 15, 2006,
the age of sixteen,  because of chronic pain associated with an
injured left knee. (Tr. 204, 221.) Mr. Montaño went to
high school until the tenth grade, when he claims he dropped
out due to his injury. (Tr. 350.) He later obtained a GED in
2005 and went on to earn his Associate's Degree in
Paralegal Studies from Clovis Community College in 2011. (Tr.
42-43.) Mr. Montaño worked for brief periods of time
between 2007 and 2014 as a retail store cashier and sales
associate, a grocery store courtesy clerk, a church and
restaurant server, and a casino valet. (Tr. 207-18.)
January 24, 2012, Mr. Montaño protectively filed an
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1381 et seq. (Tr. 168-173, 204.) Mr.
Montaño's application was initially denied on July
18, 2013. (Tr. 75, 104-107.) It was denied again at
reconsideration on January 6, 2014. (Tr. 103, 110-114.) On
March 5, 2014, Mr. Montaño requested a hearing before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr.
117-19.) The ALJ conducted a hearing on January 21, 2015.
(Tr. 38-63.) Mr. Montaño appeared via video
teleconference at the hearing from Clovis, New Mexico, and
was represented by Michael Armstrong. (Id.) The ALJ
took testimony from Mr. Montaño. (Tr. 44-62.) An
impartial vocational expert (VE), Kasey Suggs, appeared at
the hearing, but did not testify. (Id.) On February
20, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr.
25-33.) On May 19, 2016, the Appeals Council issued its
decision denying Mr. Montaño's request for review
and upholding the ALJ's final decision. (Tr. 1-6.)
22, 2016, Mr. Montaño timely filed a Complaint seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision.
Standard of Review
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether the factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence in the record and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hamlin
v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir.
2004); Langley v. Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118
(10th Cir. 2004). A decision is based on
substantial evidence where it is supported by “relevant
evidence . . . a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Langley, 373 F.3d at
1118. A decision “is not based on substantial evidence
if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record[,
]” Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118, or
“constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir.
1992). The Commissioner's decision must “provide
this court with a sufficient basis to determine that
appropriate legal principles have been followed.”
Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d 1163, 1165
(10th Cir. 2005). Therefore, although an ALJ is
not required to discuss every piece of evidence, “the
record must demonstrate that the ALJ considered all of the
evidence, ” and “the [ALJ's] reasons for
finding a claimant not disabled” must be
“articulated with sufficient particularity.”
Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10
(10th Cir. 1996).
considering an application for disability insurance benefits,
the Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation
process. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Bowen v. Yuckert,
482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). The claimant bears the burden of
establishing a prima facie case of disability at steps one
through four. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i-iv);
Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261
(10th Cir. 2005). If the claimant successfully
meets that burden, the burden of proof shifts to the
Commissioner at step five to show that the claimant is able
to perform other work in the national economy, considering
the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(v); Grogan, 399 F.3d at
made his decision that Mr. Montaño was not disabled at
step five of the sequential evaluation. He found that Mr.
Montaño had the residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of medium work as defined 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.967(c). Based on the RFC, and considering Mr.
Montaño's age, education, and work experience, the
ALJ concluded that Medical-Vocational Rule 203.28 directed a
finding of “not disabled.”
support of his Motion, Mr. Montaño argues that the ALJ
failed to explicitly state the weight he accorded examining
State Agency medical consultant Dr. Roger Felix's
opinion, and failed to give specific and legitimate reasons
for rejecting Dr. Felix's opinion. (Doc. 17 at 10-15.)
For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the ALJ
applied the correct legal standard in evaluating Dr.
Felix's opinion and that there is no reversible error.
April 27, 2013, Mr. Montaño presented to examining
State Agency medical consultant Roger Felix, M.D., for a
disability determination examination. (Tr. 329-31.) Mr.
Montaño complained of left leg spasms, left face
spasms, left arm spasms, and pain in his left lower extremity
in general. (Tr. 329.) He reported to Dr. Felix that when he
was sixteen years old, he was riding his bicycle when he was
hit by a drunk driver. (Id.) His left knee was
injured in the accident and he told Dr. Felix that the
attending EMTs described his knee as being “shredded to
pieces.” (Id.) Mr. Montaño also told
Dr. Felix that the right side of his head hit the vehicle
during the accident and that he lost consciousness for about
fifteen minutes. (Id.) He reported that he did not
remember most of the accident and “woke up in post
anesthesia care after surgery on his knee.”
(Id.) Mr. ...