United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Martin
Edward Jaramillo's Motion to Reverse and Remand the
Social Security Commissioner's final decision denying
Plaintiff period of disability and disability insurance
benefits. Doc. 19. The Court concludes that the ALJ erred in
her consideration of the medical opinions of Plaintiff's
consultative examining and non-examining psychologists.
Therefore, the Court will grant
Plaintiff's motion and remand this action to the
Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this
applied for period of disability and disability insurance
benefits on February 8, 2012. Administrative Record
(“AR”) 24. He alleged a disability onset date of
February 28, 2008. Id. After his claim was denied on
initial review and upon reconsideration, his case was set for
a hearing in front of an ALJ on July 15, 2014. Id.
August 15, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision finding
that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. AR 24-34. In arriving at her decision,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from his alleged onset date of
February 28, 2008 through his last insured date of September
30, 2013. AR 26-27. The ALJ then found that Plaintiff
suffered from the following severe impairments: (1)
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; (2)
polysubstance abuse; (3) a substance induced mood disorder;
(4) an impulse control disorder; (5) posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD); (6) a learning disorder, not otherwise
specified; (7) an antisocial personality disorder with
narcissistic and paranoid traits; and (8) stuttering
(psychologic). AR 27. The ALJ, however, found that these
impairments, individually or in combination, did not meet or
medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. AR 27-29.
she found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet a
Listing, the ALJ then went on to assess Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). AR 29. The
ALJ stated that
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that the claimant can
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl;
should have no interaction with the general public; and the
claimant is limited to only occasional and superficial
interactions with coworkers.
AR 29. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work through the date last insured. AR 33.
Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ then
determined at step five that through the date last insured,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and his RFC, there were jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that he could have performed.
appealed the ALJ's decision to the Social Security
Appeals Council and the Appeals Council denied the request
for review. AR 1. This appeal followed. Doc. 19.
Disability Determination Process
claimant is considered disabled for purposes of Social
Security disability insurance benefits if that individual 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). The Social Security Commissioner has adopted a
five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a person
satisfies these statutory criteria. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. The steps of the analysis are as follows:
(1) Claimant must establish that she is not currently engaged
in “substantial gainful activity.” If Claimant is
so engaged, she is not disabled and the analysis stops.
(2) Claimant must establish that she has “a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . . or
combination of impairments” that has lasted for at
least one year. If Claimant is not so impaired, she is not
disabled and the analysis stops.
(3) If Claimant can establish that her impairment(s) are
equivalent to a listed impairment that has already been
determined to preclude substantial gainful activity, Claimant
is presumed disabled and the analysis stops.
(4) If, however, Claimant's impairment(s) are not
equivalent to a listed impairment, Claimant must establish
that the impairment(s) prevent her from doing her “past
relevant work.” Answering this question involves three
phases. Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1023 (10th
Cir. 1996). First, the ALJ considers all of the relevant
medical and other evidence and determines what is “the
most [Claimant] can still do despite [her physical and
mental] limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).
This is called the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). Id. §
404.1545(a)(3). Second, the ALJ determines the physical and
mental demands of Claimant's past work. Third, the ALJ
determines whether, given Claimant's RFC, Claimant is
capable of meeting those demands. A claimant who is capable
of returning to past relevant work is not disabled and the
(5) At this point, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
show that Claimant is able to “make an adjustment to
other work.” If the Commissioner is unable to make that
showing, Claimant is deemed disabled. If, however, the
Commissioner is able to ...