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. 18] (“Motion”), filed on August
11, 2017. The Commissioner responded on October 10, 2017.
[Doc. 22]. Plaintiff replied on October 18, 2017. [Doc. 23].
The parties have consented to the undersigned's entering
final judgment in this case. [Doc. 19]. Having meticulously
reviewed the entire record and being fully advised in the
premises, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to meet his
burden as the movant to show that the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) did not apply the correct legal
standards or that her decision was not supported by
substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Motion will be denied
and the 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 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. 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); 20 C.F.R.
considering a disability application, the Commissioner is
required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520; 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);
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 RFC, age, education,
and work experience. Id.
applied for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) on March 16, 2011. Tr. 19. He
alleged a disability-onset date of December 31, 2004.
Id. His claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. Id. ALJ Donna Montano held a
hearing on November 12, 2014, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tr.
19, 54-68. Id. Plaintiff and his attorney appeared,
and the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff. Id. The
ALJ held a second hearing on March 27, 2015. Tr. 19, 40-53.
Plaintiff did not appear at the second hearing, but his
attorney was present. Id. The ALJ heard testimony
from a Medical Advisor, Hal Kravitz, M.D., and an impartial
vocational expert (“VE”), Thomas A. Grenier.
issued her unfavorable decision on May 20, 2015. Tr. 31. She
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2004. Tr. 21. At step one she found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
between his alleged onset date and his date last insured.
Id. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
suffered from the following severe impairments:
“obesity; diabetes mellitus with neuropathy; coronary
artery disease with bypass surgery in 2003; and degenerative
joint disease of the lumbar spine.” Id. She
found that Plaintiff's anxiety and depression were not
severe. Tr. 21-24.
three the ALJ determined that none of Plaintiff's
impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically
equaled a Listing. Tr. 24-25. Because none of Plaintiff's
impairments met or medically equaled a Listing, the ALJ went
on to assess Plaintiff's RFC. Tr. 25-29. The ALJ found
that, through his date last insured, Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform the full range of light work. Tr. 25.
four the ALJ found that Plaintiff was able to return to his
past relevant work as a small products assembler. Tr. 29-30.
Alternatively, the ALJ considered Plaintiffs RFC, age,
education, work experience, and the testimony of the VE at
step five. Tr. 30-31. She found that Plaintiff could perform
work that exists in significant numbers in the national
economy and, therefore, was not disabled. Id.
Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, but ...