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Sanchez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

February 23, 2018

JOANN MARY SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [2]

          KIRTAN KHALSA United States Magistrate Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security Administrative Record (Doc. 18) filed February 16, 2017, in support of Plaintiff Joann Mary Sanchez's (“Plaintiff”) Complaint (Doc. 1) seeking review of the decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claim for Title II disability insurance benefits. On May 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Motion to Reverse and Remand for Payment of Benefits, or in the Alternative, for Rehearing, With Supporting Memorandum (“Motion”). (Doc. 23.) The Commissioner filed a Response in opposition on June 29, 2017 (Doc. 25), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on August 4, 2017. (Doc. 26.) The Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Having meticulously reviewed the entire record and the applicable law and being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds the Motion is not well taken and is

         DENIED.

         I. Background and Procedural Record

         Claimant Joann Mary Sanchez (“Ms. Sanchez”) alleges that she became disabled on August 19, 2010, [3] at the age of fifty-three because of back injury, nerve damage, shoulder injury, fibromyalgia, chronic cervical pain, and chronic bursitis. (Tr. 40. 288, 292.[4]) Ms. Sanchez completed the eighth grade in 1970, and most recently worked as an assembly line worker. (Tr. 293, 298.) Ms. Sanchez reported she stopped working on August 19, 2007, due to her medical conditions. (Tr. 292.) Ms. Sanchez's date of last insured is December 31, 2013.[5]

         On May 6, 2010, Ms. Sanchez protectively filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. (Tr. 288, 315-17.) Ms. Sanchez's application was initially denied on November 3, 2010. (Tr. 100, 128-31.) It was denied again at reconsideration on July 19, 2011. (Tr. 101, 139-41.) On August 9, 2011, Ms. Sanchez requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 144-45.) The ALJ conducted a hearing on October 2, 2012. (Tr. 66-99.) On October 22, 2012, ALJ Michelle K. Lindsay issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 103-118.) On May 30, 2014, the Appeals Council granted Ms. Sanchez's request for review and remanded the case because

[t]he Administrative Law Judge considered and relied on evidence that does not pertain to the claimant. Pages 2 through 18 of Exhibit 2F concern an individual other than the claimant. The decision cites to that evidence and appears to make negative inferences based on the evidence (Decision, pages 6, 10, and 12). The Appeals Council has removed that evidence from the claimant's electronic folder. Because the Administrative Law Judge relied on erroneous evidence, further evaluation of the nature and severity of the claimant's condition is required.

(Tr. 125.) On remand, the ALJ was instructed to obtain updated treatment records in accordance with the regulations, to further consider the issue of disability in light of correct evidence, and to further evaluate claimant's subjective complaints and provide rationale in accordance with the disability regulations pertaining to evaluation of symptoms. (Id.) The ALJ conducted a second hearing on February 9, 2015. (Tr. 33-65.) Ms. Sanchez appeared in person and was represented by Attorney Michelle Baca.[6] The ALJ took testimony from Ms. Sanchez (Tr. 42-59), and from VE Thomas Greiner (Tr. 59-64.) On June 5, 2015, ALJ Michelle K. Lindsay issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7-23.) On September 22, 2016, the Appeals Council issued its decision denying Ms. Sanchez's request for review and upholding the ALJ's final decision. (Tr. 1-5.) On October 20, 2016, Ms. Sanchez timely filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. 1.)

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Disability Determination Process

         An individual is considered disabled if she 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) (pertaining to disability insurance benefits); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(A) (pertaining to supplemental security income disability benefits for adult individuals). The Social Security Commissioner has adopted the familiar five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a person satisfies the statutory criteria as follows:

(1) At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”[7] If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled regardless of his medical condition.
(2) At step two, the ALJ must determine the severity of the claimed physical or mental impairment(s). If the claimant does not have an impairment(s) or combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, she is not disabled.
(3) At step three, the ALJ must determine whether a claimant's impairment(s) meets or equals in severity one of the listings described in Appendix 1 of the regulations and meets the duration requirement. If so, a claimant is presumed disabled.
(4) If, however, the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal in severity one of the listing described in Appendix 1 of the regulations, the ALJ must determine at step four whether the claimant can perform 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), 416.945(a)(1). This is called the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). Id. §§ 404.1545(a)(3), 416.945(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, the claimant is capable of meeting those demands. A claimant who is capable of returning to past relevant work is not disabled.
(5) If the claimant does not have the RFC to perform her past relevant work, the Commissioner, at step five, must show that the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy, considering the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. If the Commissioner is unable to make that showing, the claimant is deemed disabled. If, however, the Commissioner is able to make the required showing, the claimant is deemed not disabled.

See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4) (disability insurance benefits); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) (supplemental security income disability benefits); Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). The claimant has the initial burden of establishing a disability in the first four steps of this analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146, n.5, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294, n. 5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). The burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show that the claimant is capable of performing work in the national economy. Id. A finding that the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point in the five-step review is conclusive and terminates the analysis. Casias v. Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 933 F.2d 799, 801 (10th Cir. 1991).

         B. Standard of Review

         This Court must affirm the Commissioner's denial of social security benefits unless (1) the decision is not supported by “substantial evidence” or (2) the ALJ did not apply the proper legal standards in reaching the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004); Langley v. Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004); Casias, 933 F.2d at 800-01. In making these determinations, the Court “neither reweigh[s] the evidence nor substitute[s] [its] judgment for that of the agency.'” Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008). A decision is based on substantial evidence where it is supported by “relevant evidence . . . a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118. A decision “is not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record[, ]” Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118, or “constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992). The agency decision must “provide this court with a sufficient basis to determine that appropriate legal principles have been followed.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d 1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 2005). Therefore, although an ALJ is not required to discuss every piece of evidence, “the record must demonstrate that the ALJ considered all of the evidence, ” and “the [ALJ's] reasons for finding a claimant not disabled” must be “articulated with sufficient particularity.” Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10 (10th Cir. 1996).

         III. Analysis

         The ALJ made her decision that Ms. Sanchez was not disabled at step four of the sequential analysis. (Tr. 22-23.) Specifically, the ALJ determined that Ms. Sanchez met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013, and that Ms. Sanchez had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 19, 2007. (Tr. 12.) She found that Ms. Sanchez had severe impairments of degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine, status-post fusion; borderline intellectual functioning; and obesity. (Tr. 13.) The ALJ, however, determined that Ms. Sanchez's impairments did not meet or equal in severity one the listings described in Appendix 1 of the regulations. (Tr. 13-16.) As a result, the ALJ proceeded to step four and found that through the date last insured Ms. Sanchez

had the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). Specifically, the claimant could lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; push and/or pull twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; and stand, and/or walk for six hour[s] out of the eight-hour workday. Further, she was able to occasionally climb stairs and ramps, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. From a mental standpoint, she was able to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions and to maintain attention and concentration to perform simple tasks for two hours at a time without requiring redirection to task. She required work involving no more than occasional change in the routine work setting, and no more than occasional independent goal setting or planning. Work was required to be routine, rote, and repetitive.

(Tr. 16.) The ALJ further concluded at step four that through the date last insured, Ms. Sanchez was capable of performing her past relevant work as a small products assembler, as it is performed at the light exertional level and is unskilled. (Tr. 22.) For this reason, the ALJ determined that Ms. Sanchez was not under a disability from her alleged onset date through her date last insured. (Tr. 23.)

         In support of her Motion, Ms. Sanchez argues that (1) the ALJ failed to use the correct legal standards in weighing the medical evidence; (2) the ALJ's RFC is not supported by substantial evidence; and (3) the ALJ's past work finding is contrary to evidence and law. (Doc. 23 at 6-24.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds there is no reversible error.

         A. Evaluation of Medical Evidence

         Ms. Sanchez broadly argues that the ALJ failed to weigh the medical evidence according to law. (Doc. 23 at 6-16.) Specifically, she argues that (1) “[t]he ALJ failed to apply the correct legal standard in assessing whether the treating doctor findings supported Ms. Sanchez's claims of inability to walk without limping and losing her balance, that sitting in one position for longer than 15 minutes or standing for more than 10 minutes causes her leg to go to sleep, and that when she moves her head a certain way she becomes dizzy”; (2) the ALJ “play[ed] doctor” by interpreting MRI and treating physician findings; (3) the ALJ improperly weighed State agency examining psychological consultant Louis Wynne, Ph.D's opinion; and (4) the ALJ accorded significant weight to State agency nonexamining psychological consultant Madelyn Miranda-DeCollibus, Psy.D.'s opinion, but failed to incorporate her moderate limitations in the RFC assessment. (Id.) The Commissioner argues that the ALJ reasonably considered the medical evidence regarding Ms. Sanchez's physical limitations and mental functioning. (Doc. 25 at 9-17.) The Court will address each argument in turn.

         1. Treating Physicians

         a. Dr. S. Kassicieh

         Prior to her date of last insured, the medical evidence record indicates that Ms. Sanchez saw Dr. S. Kassicieh, DO ten times from July 15, 2009, through May 13, 2010.[8] (Tr. 413-414, 445-446, 449.) Ms. Sanchez's chief complaint at five of these visits was “Rx refills.”[9] (Tr. 414, 446, 449.) On one visit, on May 13, 2010, Ms. Sanchez's chief complaint was “back pain.” (Tr. 445.) Dr. Kassicieh noted physical exam results at five of the ten visits, which were all within normal limits.[10] (Tr. 413, 445, 449.) Dr. Kassicieh assessed hypertension at four visits, and arthralgia at five visits. (Tr. 413-414, 445, 449.)

         b. Dr. Donald Ortiz

         Ms. Sanchez presented to Dr. Donald Ortiz of Midtown Family Medicine on February 25, 2010, to establish care. (Tr. 479-80.) Ms. Sanchez reported a past medical history of hypertension, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and disability since 2007. (Tr. 479.) She reported using hydrocodone daily for chronic pain and fibromyalgia. (Id.) Ms. Sanchez told Dr. Ortiz that her present concern was for neck pain after falling three months earlier. (Id.) She stated she had a herniated disk in her neck and had a cervical MRI in 2009, but no records were available. (Id.) On his review of systems, Dr. Ortiz noted that Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Id.) On physical exam, Dr. Ortiz noted, inter alia, that Ms. Sanchez's neck was supple without significant lymphadenopathy or thyromegaly. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz also noted that Ms. Sanchez's extremities showed no cyanosis, clubbing or edema, and that her reflexes and gait were normal. (Tr. 480.) Dr. Ortiz assessed hypertension and “myalgia and myositis unspecified, ” and increased her hydrocodone to twice daily. (Id.)

         On March 11, 2010, Ms. Sanchez saw Dr. Ortiz for follow up and reported that the increased hydrocodone was not helping. (Tr. 478.) She said that she had been helped more in the past with oxycodone. (Id.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Id.) On physical exam, Dr. Ortiz noted, inter alia, that Ms. Sanchez's neck was supple without significant lymphadenoapathy or thyromegaly. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz also noted that her extremities showed no cyanosis, clubbing or edema, and that her reflexes and gait were normal. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz prescribed Ms. Sanchez with oxycodone, twice daily, to control her reported pain. (Tr. 479.)

         On April 8, 2010, Ms. Sanchez saw Dr. Ortiz and reported no concerns, except that her pain was not controlled with the twice daily dosing of oxycodone. (Tr. 477.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz's physical exam remained the same. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz increased oxycodone to three times daily, and added Tramadol three times daily. (Tr. 478.)

         On October 29, 2010, Ms. Sanchez presented to Dr. Ortiz for prescription refills. (Tr. 475-76.) She reported having breakthrough pain and requested oxycodone four times daily. (Tr. 476.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz's physical exam was unchanged. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz increased oxycodone to four times daily and added Cyclobenzaprine one time daily. (Id.)

         On May 13, 2011, Ms. Sanchez presented to Dr. Ortiz and reported her pain was worse and she needed oxycodone five times daily. (Tr. 474.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Id.) On physical exam, Dr. Ortiz noted, inter alia, that Ms. Sanchez's neck was supple, her gait was normal, and that she had no strength, sensory or motor deficits in her upper or lower extremities. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz increased oxycodone to five times daily. (Id.)

         On October 28, 2011, Ms. Sanchez saw Dr. Ortiz and reported that her pain was increasing, that it was harder to ambulate, and that at times the pain radiated into her right leg. (Tr. 512-13.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Tr. 512.) On physical exam, Dr. Ortiz noted, inter alia, that Ms. Sanchez's neck was supple, her gait was normal, and that she had no strength, sensory or motor deficits in her upper or lower extremities. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz continued oxycodone five times daily and increased Tramadol to two tablets, three times daily. (Tr. 513.)

         On December 15, 2011, Ms. Sanchez presented to Dr. Ortiz for follow up on chronic pain. (Tr. 510-11.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Tr. 510.) Dr. Ortiz's physical exam demonstrates, inter alia, that Ms. Sanchez's neck was supple, her gait was normal, and that she had no strength, sensory or motor deficits in her upper or lower extremities. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz instructed Ms. Sanchez to continue on her current medications. (Tr. 511.)

         On March 6, 2012, Ms. Sanchez saw Dr. Ortiz for follow up on chronic pain. (Tr. 534-35.) Ms. Sanchez denied, inter alia, any dizziness or focal weakness or loss of sensation. (Tr. 534.) On physical exam, Dr. Ortiz noted that Ms. Sanchez's neck was supple, her gait was normal, and that she had no strength, sensory or motor deficits in her upper or lower extremities. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz also noted that Ms. Sanchez's drug screen was positive for opiates, negative for prescribed oxycodone, and positive for cocaine. (Id.) Ms. Sanchez admitted using cocaine over the weekend. (Tr. 535.) Dr. Ortiz informed Ms. Sanchez that he would no longer be able to prescribe her controlled medications. (Id.)

         c. Craig S. Nairn, M.D.

         On December 16, 2011, Ms. Sanchez presented to Craig S. Nairn, M.D., and complained of lower back pain. (Tr. 518-19.) She described pain in both her lower back and neck, and reported a history of fibromyalgia. (Tr. 518.) Ms. Sanchez told Dr. Nairn that she had a lumbar fusion years ago which did not help and that her only treatment had been medications. (Tr. 518.) Ms. Sanchez told Dr. Nairn that she had not had any treatment for her neck. (Id.) Ms. Sanchez also told Dr. Nairn that she was on disability because of her pain. (Id.) On Dr. Nairn's review of systems, Ms. Sanchez affirmed, inter alia, insomnia, dizziness, memory loss “sometimes, ” depression and anxiety, joint pain and weakness, and muscle weakness. (Tr. 518-19.) On physical exam, Dr. Nairn noted that Ms. Sanchez's neck had limited range of motion and side bending, and right-sided tenderness on palpation. (Tr. 518.) He also noted that Ms. Sanchez indicated midline vertebral tenderness on palpation, but that her lower back exam was otherwise normal. (Tr. 519.) Dr. Nairn assessed post-laminectomy syndrome, axial neck pain, and fibromyalgia. (Id.) He ordered an MRI scan to investigate the source of Ms. Sanchez's neck and lower back pain, and instructed her to continue on her medication management for fibromyalgia. (Id.) Dr. Nairn indicated he could consider a rheumatology referral in the future to confirm the fibromyalgia diagnosis and optimize treatment. (Id.)

         On January 27, 2012, Ms. Sanchez returned to Dr. Nairn for follow up and to discuss the MRI results. (Tr. 515-16.) Ms. Sanchez reported continued pain in her lower back with radiation to her hips and legs, somewhat worse on the right side, and pain in her midback and neck. (Tr. 515.) She denied any new or progressive numbness or weakness. (Id.) On physical exam, Dr. Nairn noted that Ms. Sanchez's neck had limited range of motion and side bending, and right-sided tenderness on palpation. (Id.) He also noted that Ms. Sanchez indicated midline vertebral tenderness on palpation, but that her lower back exam was otherwise normal. (Id.) Dr. Nairn discussed with Ms. Sanchez that her MRI results were essentially normal, and that he thought her neck and upper back pain were probably associated with fibromyalgia or soft tissue injury. (Id.) However, because the MRI demonstrated stenosis at ¶ 4-5 and associated degenerative changes at ¶ 5-S1, Dr. Nairn recommended a lumbar epidural. (Tr. 516.)

         d. The ALJ Properly Evaluated the Treating Physicians' Treatment Notes

         The Social Security Act provides that, in considering whether a person is disabled under Title II, “[o]bjective medical evidence of pain or other symptoms established by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory techniques ... must be considered in reaching a conclusion as to whether the individual is under a disability.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A) (Supp. IV 1986) (emphasis added). Thus, the Act makes clear that the Secretary must consider all relevant medical evidence of record in reaching a conclusion as to disability. See Ray v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 222, 226 (10th Cir. 1989) (“[t]he ALJ must determine the claimant's eligibility for disability benefits in light of the entire record”); Herbert v. Heckler, 783 F.2d 128, 130 (8th Cir. 1986) (it is insufficient that there are inconsistencies in objective medical evidence to support the Secretary's denial of benefits, “[t]he Secretary must demonstrate that she evaluated all the evidence”).

         The ALJ properly evaluated the treatment notes of Ms. Sanchez's treating physicians during the relevant period of time.[11] As an initial matter, none of Ms. Sanchez's treating physicians provided medical opinions.

Medical opinions are statements from an acceptable medical source that reflect judgments about the nature and severity of [a claimant's] impairments, including [a claimant's] symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what [a claimant] can still do despite impairment(s), and [a claimant's] physical or mental restrictions.

20 C.F.R. 404.1527(a)(1).[12] As such, Ms. Sanchez's argument that the ALJ was required to evaluate and weigh Ms. Sanchez's treating physicians' treatment notes by applying the specific factors when evaluating medical opinion evidence (Doc. 23 at 6) is misplaced. Id. Moreover, the ALJ discussed and evaluated Dr. Ortiz's and Dr. Nairn's treatment notes in her step four analysis, as she was required to do.[13] (Tr. 17-19.) In doing so, the ALJ accurately noted that Dr. Ortiz's physical examinations were essentially normal, and that although Dr. Nairn's physical exams revealed some tenderness on palpation and limited range of motion in Ms. Sanchez's neck, they were otherwise normal as well. (Tr. 17-18.) The Court's review of the medical evidence record demonstrates the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Dr. Ortiz noted in all eight of his treatment notes that Ms. Sanchez denied any dizziness or focal motor weakness or loss of sensation. (Tr. 474, 475-76, 477-78, 478, 479-80, 510-11, 512-13, 534-35.) Dr. Ortiz further noted at every visit that Ms. Sanchez's gait was normal. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz also specifically noted in four of his eight treatment notes that Ms. Sanchez had no strength, sensory or motor deficits in her upper or lower extremities. (Tr. 474, 510-11, 512-13, 534-35.) Similarly, Dr. Nairn's two exams were essentially normal, but for some tenderness on palpation and limited range of motion in Ms. Sanchez's neck.[14] (Tr. 508-09, 515-16.) Ms. Sanchez's argument that her treating physicians' treatment notes support her alleged claims that she could not walk without limping and losing her balance, or that her leg goes to sleep when sitting or standing in one position for too long, or that she becomes dizzy when she moves her head a certain way is without merit. The ALJ properly evaluated Ms. Sanchez's treating physicians' treatment notes and her findings are supported by substantial evidence.

         2. ALJ Findings

         Ms. Sanchez next argues that the ALJ's evaluation of the medical evidence is not supported by substantial evidence because (1) the ALJ “play[ed] doctor” when she characterized Ms. Sanchez's MRI findings as showing “minor” bilateral neuroforaminal encroachment; (2) Dr. Nairn's treatment notes supported Ms. Sanchez's claim of manipulative limitations;[15] (3) the ALJ improperly relied on Dr. Ortiz's normal motor and gait findings contrary to SSR 12-2p;[16] (4) the ALJ failed to discuss Dr. Ortiz's myalgia diagnosis and medication treatment for pain; and (5) the ALJ improperly characterized Ms. Sanchez's October 2014 MRI findings as “mild.” (Doc. 23 at 10-11.)

         Ms. Sanchez's argument essentially asks the Court to reweigh the evidence, which the Court will not do, and is, in any event, without merit. See Oldham v. Astrue, 509 F.3d 1254, 1257-58 (10th Cir. 2007 (“We review only the sufficiency of the evidence, not its weight . . . Although the evidence may also have supported contrary findings, we may not displace the agency's choice between two fairly conflicting views . . . .”). First, the MRI findings Ms. Sanchez refers to specifically state “[t]here is minor L4 neuroforaminal encroachment bilaterally.”[17] (Tr. 522.) (Emphasis added.) As such, the ALJ did not play doctor, substitute her lay opinion, or make an improper speculative inference because she repeated the radiologist's findings verbatim. (Compare Tr. 19 and Tr. 522.) Second, although Dr. Nairn's physical exams demonstrated limited range of motion in Ms. Sanchez's neck, Dr. Nairn's treatment notes do not assess any manipulative functional limitations[18] as a result.[19] (Doc. 508-09, 515-16.) Third, the ALJ's reliance on Dr. Ortiz's normal exams to find that Ms. Sanchez was not impaired to the degree she alleged was proper and not contrary to SSR 12-2p because the ALJ's finding that the medical evidence record does not support Ms. Sanchez's self-reported fibromyalgia diagnosis is supported by substantial evidence. (Tr. 13.) Fourth, the ALJ did discuss that despite Dr. Ortiz's normal exams, he nonetheless prescribed oxycodone to deal with her pain. (Tr. 17.) Fifth, the ALJ properly characterized the October 2014 MRI findings, [20] and properly noted that the study was performed well after the date last insured expired.[21] (Tr. 20, 576.) The ALJ's findings regarding the medical evidence are supported by substantial evidence.

         3. Louis Wynne, Ph.D.

         On June 22, 2011, Ms. Sanchez presented to Louis Wynne, Ph.D., for a mental status exam. (Doc. 485-87.) Dr. Wynne noted that Ms. Sanchez's affect was open and congruent, with a dysphoric mood. (Tr. 485.) He further noted that she maintained good eye contact and related easily, but that her cooperation was limited by her low level of intellectual functioning. (Id.) Ms. Sanchez reported medical conditions of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and breathing difficulties NOS. (Tr. 486.) She also reported using a cane and wearing braces on both her wrists as needed. (Id.)

         On questioning, Ms. Sanchez denied any contact with mental health professionals, psychotic episodes, unwanted behaviors, inpatient psychiatric admissions, overdoses, or any episodes of self-injury. (Doc. 486.) She denied the use of tobacco, alcohol, and any other substance abuse. (Id.) She reported she last worked as a maid and janitor and that it was “a long time ago.” (Id.) Ms. Sanchez stated she was unable to remember where she was born, any of her childhood achievements or developmental milestones, [22] or her parents' circumstances at the time she was born; i.e., where her father worked and whether she and her mother went home from the hospital together. (Tr. 486.) She could not remember her height or weight. (Tr. 485.) She also could not remember the name of her oldest daughter's father. (Tr. 487.) She reported that her parents and four of her seven siblings were deceased, but could not provide any details. (Id.) Dr. Wynne concluded that Ms. Sanchez's ability to present a plausible, detailed, and comprehensive personal history was impaired, and that the information she provided should be verified before any reliance was placed on it. (Tr. 486.)

         On exam, Dr. Wynne noted that Ms. Sanchez could not copy a pair of intersecting pentagons or remember and carry out a written three-part set of directions. (Tr. 485-86.) She could not count backwards from 100 either by threes or by sevens, and she could not remember a set of digits forwards even to three. (Tr. 486.) She could not remember a set of digits backwards even to two. (Id.) She could not spell a common five-letter word forwards and her short-term memory for both items and words was severely impaired. (Id.) Dr. Wynne noted that Ms. Sanchez's performance of operations in simple mental arithmetic was also ...


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