United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STEPHAN M. VIDMAR, United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing with Supporting Memorandum
[Doc. 18] (“Motion”), filed on February 15, 2018.
The Commissioner responded on April 12, 2018. [Doc. 20].
Plaintiff replied on May 7, 2018. [Doc. 23]. The parties have
consented to my entering final judgment in this case. [Doc.
8]. Having meticulously reviewed the entire record and being
fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that Plaintiff
fails to meet his burden as the movant to show that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) did not apply
the correct legal standards or that his decision was not
supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Motion
will be denied and the Commissioner's final decision
standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the
Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial
evidence and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. Maes v. Astrue, 522 F.3d 1093, 1096 (10th
Cir. 2008). If substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's findings and the correct legal standards
were applied, the Commissioner's decision stands and the
plaintiff is not entitled to relief. Langley v.
Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004). Courts
must meticulously review the entire record, but may neither
reweigh the evidence nor substitute their judgment for that
of the Commissioner. Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d
1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007).
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118. The decision “is
not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by
other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla
of evidence supporting it.” Id. While a court
may not reweigh the evidence or try the issues de novo, its
examination of the record as a whole must include
“anything that may undercut or detract from the
[Commissioner]'s findings in order to determine if the
substantiality test has been met.” Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2005).
“The possibility of drawing two inconsistent
conclusions from the evidence does not prevent [the] findings
from being supported by substantial evidence.” Lax
v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (10th Cir.
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.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d
1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks
Law and Sequential Evaluation Process
order to qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must
establish that he 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); 20 C.F.R.
considering a disability application, the Commissioner is
required to use a five step sequential evaluation process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 140 (1987). At the first four steps of the evaluation
process, the claimant must show: (1) he is not engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”; and (2)
he has a “severe medically determinable . . .
impairment . . . or a combination of impairments” that
has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year;
and (3) his impairment(s) either meet or equal one
of the Listings of presumptively disabling impairments;
or (4) he is unable to perform his “past
relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv);
Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261. If he cannot show that his
impairment meets or equals a Listing, but he proves that he
is unable to perform his “past relevant work, ”
the burden of proof then shifts to the Commissioner, at step
five, to show that the claimant is able to perform other work
in the national economy, considering his residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work
experience. Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261.
applied for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits on December 15, 2015. Tr. 18. He alleged a
disability-onset date of January 23, 2009. Id. His
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration.
Id. ALJ Cole Gerstner held a hearing on November 29,
2016, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tr. 18, 37-79. Plaintiff
appeared with his attorney. Id. The ALJ heard
testimony from Plaintiff and an impartial vocational expert
(“VE”) Mary Weber. Id.
issued his unfavorable decision on February 22, 2017. Tr. 32.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements through March 31, 2019. Tr. 20. At step one he
found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date. Id. At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments: posttraumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), panic attacks, depressive disorder,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and bilateral
degenerative joint disease of the knees. Id. He
further found that Plaintiff's seizure disorder was not
severe. Tr. 20-21.
three the ALJ determined that none of Plaintiff's
impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically
equaled a Listing. Tr. 21-22. Because none of Plaintiff's
impairments met or medically equaled a Listing, the ALJ went
on to assess Plaintiff's RFC. Tr. 22-29. The ALJ found
that Plaintiff had
the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R.
§] 404.1567(b) except allows for sitting, standing[, ]
and walking six hours of an eight[-]hour workday; pushing and
pulling as much as he can lift and carry; occasional climbing
of ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps[, ] and stairs;
occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching[, ] and crawling;
work environment with occasional exposure to unprotected
heights, moving mechanical parts, extreme cold, vibration[, ]
and moderate noise; limited to simple, routine[, ] and
repetitive tasks but not at a production rate pace; judgment
limited to simple work[-]related decisions; ...