United States District Court, D. New Mexico
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
R. SWEAZEA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks review of the Commissioner's determination that she
is not entitled to disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434. On June 14, 2017, in accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B), (b)(3), this case was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Kevin R. Sweazea to conduct any
necessary hearings and to recommend an ultimate disposition.
See Order of Reference, ECF No. 6. Having considered
Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing
(Doc. 17), filed November 9, 2017, the Commissioner's
response in opposition (Doc. 19), filed December 5, 2017, and
Plaintiff's reply (Doc 21), filed December 15, 2017, the
undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Court GRANT Plaintiff's
motion for the reasons set forth below.
January 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits, alleging that she had been
disabled since September 11, 2012, due to an injured
shoulder, back and knee; fibromyalgia; “gastro”;
liver disease; Raynaud disease; parathyroid disease; anxiety;
and depression. (AR 146, 164, 168). On August 22, 2014, it
was determined that Plaintiff was not disabled and her claim
was denied. (AR 83). This determination was affirmed on
January 13, 2015 (AR 90), and a subsequent hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), held on
November 2, 2016, again ended in a denial. (AR 23-32). The
ALJ's decision became final when, on March 22, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(AR 1). 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).
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. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 751 (10th Cir.
1988). See also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).