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Sisneros v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 29, 2018

JAMES SISNEROS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE OR REMAND

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff James Sisneros's Motion to Remand to Agency. Doc. 22. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will DENY Plaintiff's Motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income in October 2010. AR 203. Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of August 25, 2010 due to lower back pain, memory loss, depression, and anxiety. AR 203-12, 235. Plaintiff's claims were initially denied in October 2012. AR 26-44. Plaintiff appealed this denial to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. AR 695-700. While the case was pending before the district court, the Social Security Administration moved for a voluntarily remand of the claims. AR 695-700.

         On remand, the Appeals Council directed the ALJ to evaluate the medical source opinions and provide an adequate rationale, further evaluate Plaintiff's mental impairments, evaluate Plaintiff's maximum residual functional capacity, and obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert, if necessary. AR 620. On March 18, 2016, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing. AR 620. The ALJ ultimately found that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform and accordingly concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled. Plaintiff now appeals this determination. Because the parties are familiar with Plaintiff's medical history, the Court reserves discussion of the medical records relevant to this appeal for its analysis.

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Disability Determination Process

         A 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 analysis stops.
(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).

         B. ...


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