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Garcia v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 31, 2018

JESUS A. GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Jesus Garcia's Motion to Reverse and Remand the Social Security Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. Doc. 20. The Court concludes that the ALJ did not error in her Step 5 findings and, therefore, will DENY Plaintiff's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on June 13, 2013. Administrative Record (“AR”) 520. He alleged a disability onset date of February 7, 2012. Id. After his claim was denied on initial review and upon reconsideration, her case was set for a hearing in front of an ALJ on March 10, 2015. Id. Plaintiff appeared in person at the hearing with his attorney. Id. The ALJ took testimony from Plaintiff and from an impartial Vocational Expert (“VE”), Sandra Fioretti. Id.; see also AR 533-559.

         On April 23, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. AR 520-28. In arriving at her decision, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 7, 2012, his alleged onset date. AR 522. The ALJ then found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: (1) spinal disorder including thoracic and lumbar spine strain sprain; (2) disorder of the left shoulder including rotator cuff tear, labrum fraying, and acromioclavicular arthritis; (3) disorder of the right hip; (4) osteoarthritis and probable right sacroiliac joint sprain; (5) diabetes; (6) high blood pressure; and (7) obesity. AR 522. The ALJ found that these impairments, individually or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. AR 523.

         Because she found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet a Listing, the ALJ then went on to assess Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). AR 523-27. The ALJ stated that

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). Specifically, the claimant can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; push/pull within the same weight limitations; stand/walk for four hours out of an eight hour workday, with no prolonged standing and walking greater than 30 minutes at a time; and sit for six hours out of an eight hour workday with the ability to stand and stretch not to exceed 10 percent of the day, in addition to normal breaks and lunches. The claimant is precluded from repetitive pushing, pulling, and lifting with the left upper extremity and right lower extremity; repetitive foot pedals with the right lower extremity; repetitive bending or stooping; running; jumping; ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; repetitive twisting; crawling; squatting; repetitive stair climbing; and work above or at shoulder level with the right upper extremity. Additionally, the claimant is limited to non-complex tasks because of pain and medication side effects.

         AR 523. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had no past relevant work. AR 526. Based on the VE's Fioretti's testimony, the ALJ then determined at step five that considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and her RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform. AR 527-28.

         Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Appeals Council. AR 1-6. The Appeals Council ultimately denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. This appeal followed. Doc.19.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. Disability Determination Process

         A claimant is considered disabled for purposes of Social Security disability insurance benefits or supplemental security income 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); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(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, 416.920. 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 ...

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