United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE OR
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Philip
Sanchez's Motion to Reverse and Remand the Social
Security Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff
period of disability and disability insurance
benefits. Doc. 19. For the reasons discussed below,
the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's motion and remand this
action to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
filed his claim on January 29, 2015 alleging disability due
to diabetes, back problems, bad knees, hypertension,
depression, neck problems, bone spurs, rotator cuff problems,
muscle weakness, and memory problems. AR 59. Plaintiff
alleged his disability onset date was August 17, 2014. AR 59.
Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on May 21, 2015
and upon reconsideration on August 15, 2015. AR 13. Plaintiff
thereafter requested a hearing which the ALJ held on February
3, 2016. AR 13. On March 23, 2016, the ALJ issued his
decision denying Plaintiff's claim. AR 25. Because the
parties are familiar with record in this case, the Court will
only discuss Plaintiff's medical history to the extent
that it is relevant to the issues before the Court.
medical records show Plaintiff presenting to Dr. Aedra
Andrade on numerous occasions throughout 2013-2015. AR
267-320. Although the main subjects of Plaintiff's visit
were his diabetes and musculoskeletal pain, Dr. Andrade noted
on numerous occasions Plaintiff's depressive disorder and
“unspecified mental disorders.” See
e.g., AR 267. On September 10, 2013, Dr. Andrade noted
that Plaintiff was “still really battling depression,
gets mad about everything, very irritable, getting hopeless
and frustrated. Hasn't gone to [behavioral health
services] due to lack of money for copay.” AR 308. In
January 2014 and December 2014, Dr. Andrade noted that
Plaintiff was taking medication for his depression and that
his depression had stabilized. AR 269, 303. However, in
February and April of 2015, Dr. Andrade noted that Plaintiff
had run out of depression medication and that his symptoms
had returned. AR 313, 317.
April 30, 2015, Plaintiff presented to Michael Emery, Ph.D.
for a consultative psychology examination. Dr. Emery's
report includes significant discussion of Plaintiff's
history, specifically in regard to his depressive symptoms.
Dr. Emery stated that he “suspect[ed] issues with both
depression and anxiety pre-date[d] the health issues, most
likely originating in childhood trauma.” AR 339.
Importantly, Dr. Emery opined that Plaintiff's
“[s]ocial functioning is markedly impaired by
interpersonal anxiety, panic episodes, and self-imposed
isolation. General adaptation is markedly impaired.” AR
21, 2015, non-examining, consultative physicians Dr. Lammer
and Dr. Wewerka completed a medical assessment of
claimant's impairments. AR 59-72. They indicated that
Plaintiff had the following moderate limitations: (a) ability
to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods
of time, (b) ability to interact appropriately with the
general public, and (c) ability to accept instructions and
respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors. AR 68.
Further, on August 15, 2015, non-examining, consultative
physicians Dr. Suansilppongse and Dr. Medina completed a
medical assessment of Plaintiff. They found that he had the
following moderate limitations: (a) ability to understand and
remember detailed instructions, (b) ability to carry out
detailed instructions, (c) ability to maintain attention and
concentration for extended periods of time, (d) ability to
complete a normal workday and workweek without interruption
from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a
consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of
rest periods, (e) ability to interact appropriately with the
general public, (f) ability to accept instruction and respond
appropriately to criticism from supervisors, (g) ability to
respond appropriately to changes in the workplace; and (h)
ability to set realistic goals or make plans independently of
others. AR 82-84.
decision, the ALJ gave Dr. Emery's opinions
“limited weight.” AR 23. The ALJ stated that
although “his opinions on the claimant's abilities
for cognition and concentration, persistence and pace are
consistent with the evidence of record, his opinions that the
claimant had marked limitations in social functioning and
with general adaptation are based entirely on the
claimant's self-report and are not supported by the
overall record.” AR 23.
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