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Jaramillo v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 18, 2017

MARTIN EDWARD JARAMILLO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS 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 opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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.

         On 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.

         Because 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. AR 33-34.

         Plaintiff 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.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. Disability Determination Process

         A 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 analysis stops.
(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 ...

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