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. 20] (“Motion”), filed on June 28, 2017. The
Commissioner responded on August 28, 2017. [Doc. 22].
Plaintiff replied on September 11, 2017. [Doc. 23]. The
parties have consented to the undersigned's entering
final judgment in this case. [Doc. 8]. Having meticulously
reviewed the entire record and being fully advised in the
premises, the Court finds the Court finds that remand is not
warranted. Plaintiff fails to show that the Administrative
Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision is not supported
by substantial evidence or is the product of an incorrect
legal standard. Accordingly, the Motion will be denied, and
Commissioner's final decision, affirmed.
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 re-weigh 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) (citing
Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 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 Process
order to qualify for disability benefits, a 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. § 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A);
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a).
considering a disability application, the Commissioner is
required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). At the first four
steps of the evaluation process, 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. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv), 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 she 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. Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261.
applied for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income on September 15,
2011. Tr. 11. He alleged a disability-onset date of January
11, 2011. Tr. 962. His claims were denied initially,
on reconsideration, and by an ALJ. Tr. 11, 23. The Appeals
Council denied review. Tr. 1-6. The Commissioner's
decision was reversed and remanded by the Honorable Lourdes
A. Martínez, United States Magistrate Judge, on March
4, 2016. Tr. 1084-1101; case number 14-cv-1102 LAM (D.N.M.).
remand, ALJ Lillian Richter held a hearing on May 24, 2016,
in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tr. 962, 1024-78.
Plaintiff appeared in person with his attorney and his
18-year-old daughter, Rebecca Aragon. Tr. 969, 1060. The ALJ
heard testimony from Plaintiff, Ms. Aragon, and an impartial
vocational expert, Mary D. Weber. Tr. 1025.
issued her partially favorable decision on August 2, 2016.
Tr. 977. Initially, she found that Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements through September 30, 2014. Tr. 964. At
step one, she found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date.
Tr. 965. Because Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity for at least 12 months, the ALJ proceeded to
step two. Id. There, she found that Plaintiff
suffered from the following severe impairments: “opiate
dependence on opiate replacement therapy (methadone); heroin
dependence; post traumatic stress disorder; major depressive
disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; obesity;
hypertension; obstructive sleep apnea; chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease [“COPD”]; hypoxemia; sinus
tachycardia; diabetes mellitus; and gastroesophageal reflux
disease[.]” Id. At step three, the ALJ found
that none of Plaintiff's impairments, alone or in
combination, met or medically equaled a Listing. Tr. 965-68.
none of Plaintiff's impairments met or medically equaled
a Listing, the ALJ went on to assess Plaintiff's RFC. Tr.
968-74. The ALJ assessed two different RFCs, one prior to
March 23, 2013, and one beginning on March 23,
2013.Id. The Court borrows