United States District Court, D. New Mexico
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE AND REMAND
R SWEAZEA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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. §§ 401-434. 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 Plaintiff's
Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing, with Supporting
Memorandum, filed July 13, 2017 (Doc. 24), the
Commissioner's response in opposition, filed September
13, 2017 (Doc. 26), and Plaintiff's reply, filed
September 27, 2017 (Doc. 27). Having so considered, the Court
FINDS and CONCLUDES that Plaintiff's motion is well-taken
and should be granted.
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. at 1262. “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 Plaintiff'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).
January 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for Social
Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, alleging that
she had been disabled since September 30, 2010, due to
diabetes, Meniere's disease, and tinnitus. (AR 125, 148).
Following a hearing held on November 17, 2015, Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) David R. Wurm concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled and her claim was denied.
making his decision, ALJ Wurm employed in the required
five-step, sequential disability analysis,  first finding
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date of September 30,
2010. (AR 22). At step two, ALJ Wurm found that
Plaintiff has the severe impairments of bilateral
sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus, Meniere's disease,
diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, and osteoarthritis of the
left knee. (AR 22). At step three, the ALJ determined that
none of Plaintiff's impairments, whether alone or in
combination, met or medically equaled the severity of a
listed impairment. Id.
Wurm next assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional
Capacity (“RFC”), finding that Plaintiff has the
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
for occasional use of foot controls; occasional climbing of
ramps or stairs; no climbing of ladders or scaffolds;
occasional balancing and crouching; no exposure to
unprotected heights or hazards such as moving mechanical
parts; and, exposure to no more than moderate noise levels.
Wurm then proceeded to step four of the disability analysis
where he concluded that Plaintiff was able to perform her
past relevant work as a telemarketer and, therefore, was not
disabled. (AR 27). The ALJ's decision became final when,
on October 11, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff'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).
request for reversal and remand is based on contentions that
ALJ Wurm (1) improperly assessed evidence provided by
Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Vittal T. Pai; (2)
improperly assessed Plaintiff's RFC; (3) failed to make
the required findings at step four; and (4) failed to develop
the record. Plaintiff also contends that the Appeals ...