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 or Remand Administrative Agency Decision [Doc. 19]
and her Memorandum Brief in Support [Doc. 20], filed on
August 16, 2017. The Commissioner responded on October 18,
2017. [Doc. 27]. Plaintiff replied on November 21, 2017.
[Doc. 28]. The parties have consented to my entering final
judgment in this case. [Doc. 25]. Having meticulously
reviewed the entire record and being fully advised in the
premises, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to meet her
burden as the movant before this Court to show that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) did not apply
the correct legal standards, or that his decision was not
supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Motion
will be denied and the Commissioner's final decision
reviewing a decision by the Commissioner's to terminate
benefits, courts must decide whether substantial evidence
supports the decision. Hayden v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d 986,
988 (10th Cir. 2004). “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). 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. FAA, 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (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).
addition, when terminating benefits, the Commissioner's
“failure to apply correct legal standards, or to show
us that she has done so, are also grounds for
reversal.” Hayden, 374 F.3d at 988. Thus,
reviewing courts must be satisfied that the Commissioner
applied the correct legal standards in deciding to terminate
Law and Sequential Evaluation Process
case involves the termination of benefits. Plaintiff was
found to be disabled in 2010. However, in 2012, Defendant
determined that Plaintiff was no longer disabled and
terminated her benefits.
seven-step sequential evaluation process is used in reviewing
a termination of supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits. If the Commissioner meets her
burden of establishing that the claimant's medical
condition has improved, and that the improvement is related
to the claimant's ability to work, the Commissioner must
then demonstrate that the claimant is currently able to
engage in substantial gainful activity. Hayden, 374
F.3d at 988.
burden of proof is on the Commissioner in a
termination-of-benefits review. Id. at 991;
Glenn v. Shalala, 21 F.3d 983, 987 (10th Cir. 1994).
The Honorable Sam A. Crow, Senior United States District
Judge for the District of Kansas, summarizes the seven-step
sequential evaluation process as follows:
(1) Does the claimant have an impairment or
combination of impairments which meets or equals the severity
of a listed impairment? (If yes, the claimant is still
disabled.) (2) If not, has there been
medical improvement? If there has been medical improvement,
as shown by a decrease in medical severity, see step 3. If
there has been no decrease in medical severity, there has
been no medical improvement (see step 4).
(3) If there has been medical improvement,
the agency must determine whether it is related to the
claimant's ability to work (whether there has been an
increase in the residual functional capacity (RFC) based on
the impairment that was present at the time of the most
favorable medical determination). If medical improvement is
not related to the claimant's ability to work, see step
4. If medical improvement is related to claimant's
ability to work, see step 5. (4) If no
medical improvement was found at step 2, or that the medical
improvement was found at step 3 not to be related to
claimant's ability to work, the agency considers a number
of exceptions; if none of them applies, claimant's
disability will be found to continue.
(5) The agency will next determine whether
all of the claimant's current impairments in combination
are severe. If claimant has no severe impairments, claimant
will no longer be considered disabled.
(6) If claimant's impairments are
severe, the agency will assess the claimant's current
ability to do substantial gainful activity. The agency will
assess the claimant's RFC and consider whether the
claimant can perform past work. If claimant can perform past
work, claimant will no longer be considered disabled.
(7) If claimant cannot perform past work,
the agency will consider, given claimant's RFC, whether
claimant can perform other work in the national economy.
Adams v. Colvin, No. 15-1074-SAC, 2016 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 79508, *5-6 (D. Kan. June 17, 2016) (unpublished)
(emphases added) (citing 20 ...