United States District Court, D. New Mexico
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE AND REMAND
R SWEAZEA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Dagmar Marie Todorova seeks review of the Commissioner's
determination that she is not entitled to disability benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-433. With the consent of the parties to
conduct dispositive proceedings in this matter, see
28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(b), the Court has
considered Ms. Todorova's Motion to Reverse and Remand
for Rehearing, with Supporting Memorandum, filed October 16,
2017 [Doc. 15], the Commissioner's response in
opposition, filed November 16, 2017 [Doc. 17], and Ms.
Todorova's reply, filed November 24, 2017 [Doc. 18].
Having so considered, the Court FINDS and
CONCLUDES that Ms. Todorova's motion is not well
taken and should not be granted.
August 26, 2013 Ms. Todorova filed an application for Social
Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, alleging that
she had been disabled since September 1, 2004, due to mitral
valve replacement, reflex sympathetic dystrophy
(“RSD”) and mitral stenosis followed by mitral
valve replacement. [AR 110]. On February 28, 2014, it was
determined that Ms. Todorova was not disabled and her claim
was denied. [AR 39-44]. This determination was affirmed on
July 31, 2014 [AR 45-52], and a subsequent hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), held on January
27, 2016, again ended in a denial. [AR 9-20]. The ALJ's
decision became final when, on April 4, 2017, the Appeals
Council denied Ms. Todorova's request for review. [AR
1-4]. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000)
(explaining that if the Council denies a request for a
review, the ALJ's opinion becomes the final decision).
See also 20 C.F.R. § 404.900(a)(1)-(5).
review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to
determining “whether substantial evidence supports the
factual findings and whether the ALJ applied the correct
legal standards.” Allman v. Colvin, 813 F.3d
1326, 1330 (10th Cir. 2016). See also 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). “Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Langley v. Barnhart,
373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted).
“Evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by
other evidence in the record or constitutes mere
conclusion.” Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d
1257, 1261-62 (10th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted). The Court
must examine the record as a whole, “including anything
that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in
order to determine if the substantiality test has been
met.” Id. “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.” Byron v.
Heckler, 742 F.2d 1232, 1235 (10th Cir. 1984) (quotation
omitted). Even so, it is not the function of the Court to
review Ms. Todorova's claims de novo, and the Court may
not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that
of the ALJ. Glass v. Shalala, 43 F.3d 1392, 1395
(10th Cir. 1994).
” as defined by the Social Security Act, is the
inability “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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). The Act further adds that for the
purposes of § 423(d)(1)(A):
an individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
evaluating a disability claim under this standard, the ALJ
employs a five-step sequential process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. In the first four steps, the claimant must prove
that he or she (1) is not engaged in any substantial gainful
activity; (2) has a severe physical or mental impairment, or
combination of impairments, that meets the twelve month
duration requirement; (3) has an impairment, or combination
thereof, that meets or equals a listing in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpt. P, App. 1; and (4) is unable to engage in past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(iv). If
the disability claim survives step four, the burden shifts to
the ALJ to prove, at step five, that the claimant is able to
adjust to other jobs presently available in significant
numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v). See also Wilson v. Astrue, 602
F.3d 1136, 1139 (10th Cir. 2010).
four and five are based on an assessment of the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) which gauges “what the claimant is
still functionally capable of doing on a regular and
continuing basis, despite his impairments.”
Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 751 (10th Cir.
1988). See also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).