United States District Court, D. New Mexico
RAMONA VICTORIA MARES, EX REL. HER DECEASED FATHER, JOHN MARES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE AND REMAND
R SWEAZEA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks review of the Commissioner's determination that her
deceased father (“Mr. Mares”) was not entitled to
disability benefits, prior to his death, under Title II or
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434, §§ 1381-1383f. 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 or for Immediate Payment of Benefits
(Doc. 21), filed October 31, 2017, the Commissioner's
response in opposition (Doc. 25), filed January 4, 2018, and
Plaintiff's reply (Doc 26), filed February 16, 2018.
Having so considered, the Court FINDS and CONCLUDES that
Plaintiff's motion is not well-taken and should be
October 15, 2013, Mr. Mares filed applications for Title II
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and Title
XVI supplemental security income (“SSI”). (AR
220, 226). On February 21, 2014, it was determined that Mr.
Mares was not disabled and his claim was denied. (AR 120,
124). This determination was affirmed on July 22, 2014 (AR
130, 133), and a subsequent hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”), held on April 2, 2015, again
ended in a denial. (AR 15-26). The ALJ's decision became
final when, on March 6, 2017, 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).
Mr. Mares died on May 11, 2015, and thus only his claim for
Title II disability insurance benefits survives the appeal at
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 162. “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).
” as defined by the Social Security Act, is the
inability “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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). The Act further adds that for the
purposes of § 423(d)(1)(A):
an individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
evaluating a disability claim under this standard, the ALJ
employs a five-step sequential process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. In the first four steps, the claimant must prove
that he or she (1) is not engaged in any substantial gainful
activity; (2) has a severe physical or mental impairment, or
combination of impairments, that meets the twelve month
duration requirement; (3) has an impairment, or combination
thereof, that meets or equals a listing in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpt. P, App. 1; and (4) is unable to engage in past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(iv). If
the disability claim survives step four, the burden shifts to
the ALJ to prove, at step five, that the claimant is able to
adjust to other jobs presently available in significant
numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v). See also Wilson v. Astrue, 602
F.3d 1136, 1139 (10th Cir. 2010).
four and five are based on an assessment of the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) which gauges “what the claimant is
still functionally capable of doing on a regular and
continuing basis, despite his impairments.”
Williams v. ...