United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE OR
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Kenneth
Monk's Motion to Remand to Agency. Doc. 20. For
the reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT
protectively filed an application for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits on October 22, 2012. AR 66.
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of May 1, 2009, due
to degenerative disc disease and high blood pressure. AR 66.
Plaintiff's claim for supplemental security income was
granted but his claim for disability insurance benefits was
initially denied on April 4, 2013, and upon reconsideration
on December 20, 2013. AR 13, 99-101. Plaintiff thereafter
filed a request for a hearing and one was held on May 6,
2015. AR 13. On June 19, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 21. Plaintiff now appeals
that determination. Because the parties are familiar with
Plaintiff's medical history, the Court reserves
discussion of the medical records relevant to this appeal for
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
determines whether, given claimant's RFC, claimant is
capable of meeting those demands. A claimant who is capable
of returning to past relevant work is not disabled and the
(5) At this point, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
show that claimant is able to “make an adjustment to
other work.” If the Commissioner is unable to make that
showing, 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. § 1520(a)(4); Fischer-Ross v.
Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005).
Standard of Review
must affirm the 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);
Casias v. Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 933
F.2d 799, 800-01 (10th Cir. 1991). In making these
determinations, the reviewing 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). For example, a court's
disagreement with a decision is immaterial to the substantial
evidence analysis. A decision is supported by substantial
evidence as long as it is supported by “relevant
evidence . . . a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support [the] conclusion.” Casias, 933 F.3d at
800. While this requires more than a mere scintilla of
evidence, Casias, 933 F.3d at 800, “[t]he
possibility of ...