United States District Court, D. New Mexico
GLORIA N. MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Performing the duties and functions not Reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. RITTER U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Gloria N.
Martinez' Motion to Remand her Social Security case,
filed March 8, 2018. [Doc. 25]. The Court has also considered
Mrs. Martinez' response to the Court's Order to Show
Cause and her Supplemental Motion to Remand. [Docs. 26');">26, 30].
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 73(b), the parties have consented to the
undersigned to conduct dispositive proceedings in this
matter, including the entry of final judgment. [Doc. 18].
Having considered the parties' positions, the relevant
law, and the relevant portions of the Administrative Record
(“AR”), the Court denies Mrs.
Martinez' Motion, for the reasons set forth below.
Martinez, who is proceeding pro se,  generally asserts
that her case should be remanded to the Social Security
Administration. Liberally construing her various statements,
she complains that a consultative examiner, Dr. Wynne,
violated her rights by assessing her dress and hygiene as
part of his psychological examination. [Docs. 26');">26, 30]. She
also argues that the limitations found by this examiner
preclude her from performing basic work activities, assumedly
in contrast to the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ's”) conclusion that she can perform
some work. [Doc. 26');">26, p. 2]. Finally, she appears to challenge
the ALJ's credibility determination by asserting that she
was very active and had a consistent work history prior to
claiming disability. [Doc. 30]. Unfortunately for Mrs.
Martinez, none of her claims warrant reversal of the
Martinez filed applications with the Social Security
Administration for disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act and supplemental security
income under Title XVI of the Act on December 20, 2012.
AR at 161-170. She alleged a disability onset date
of June 1, 2010, the day she stopped working due to
“Depression, Thyroid condition, Vertigo, PTSD, [and]
Anxiety.” AR at 161, 200.
Administration denied Mrs. Martinez' claims initially and
upon reconsideration, and she requested a de novo
hearing before an ALJ. AR at 56-119. ALJ Eric Weiss
held an evidentiary hearing on February 25, 2015. AR
at 26');">26-55. Mrs. Martinez appeared pro se, and elected
to proceed without an attorney or other representative.
AR at 30-31. On September 5, 2015, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision, finding that Mrs. Martinez has not been
disabled as defined by law from her alleged onset date
through the date of his decision. AR at 6-25. Mrs.
Martinez requested review of the ALJ's decision on
October 6, 2015, AR at 4-5, and the Appeals Council
denied her request for review on November 9, 2016.
AR at 1-3. As such, the ALJ's decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner. Doyal v.
Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 759 (10th Cir. 2003). This Court
now has jurisdiction to review the decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a).
claimant seeking disability benefits must establish that she
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. § 404.1505(a). The Commissioner
must use a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine eligibility for benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§
One of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that
Mrs. Martinez has not engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” since her alleged onset date. AR at
11. At Step Two, he determined that she has the
“severe” impairments of “(i) anxiety
disorder; (ii) depression disorder; (iii) post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD); and, (iv) vertigo[.]”
AR at 11. However, at Step Three, the ALJ concluded
that Mrs. Martinez' impairments, individually and in
combination, do not meet or medically equal the regulatory
“listings.” AR at 12-13. This means that
the ALJ determined that none of Plaintiff's impairments,
though severe, were severe enough to prevent Mrs. Martinez
from doing any gainful activity. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1525, 416.925.
claimant does not meet a listed impairment, the ALJ must
determine her “residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). RFC is a multidimensional description of the
work-related abilities a claimant retains in spite of her
medical impairments and limitations. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1). “RFC is not the
least an individual can do despite his or her
limitations or restrictions, but the most.”
SSR 96-8p. 1');">p. 1996 WL 374184, at *1. In this case, the ALJ
determined that Mrs. Martinez retains the RFC to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except that she may: lift up to twenty (20) pounds
occasionally and lift or carry up to ten (10) pounds
frequently, and push or pull the same; stand or walk for up
to six (6) hours per eight-hour day and sit for up to six (6)
hours per eight-hour day with normal breaks; frequently climb
ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes and
scaffolds; avoid more than occasional exposure to work place
hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights; is
limited to simple, routine tasks with only occasional changes
in the work setting; and, is limited to occasional contact
with the public, supervisors and co-workers.
AR at 13-14.
this RFC at Steps Four and Five of the process, and relying
on the testimony of a Vocational Expert, the ALJ determined
that Mrs. Martinez is unable to perform her past relevant
work as a cook's helper. AR at 18. However, the
ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in
“significant numbers” in the national economy
that she can perform, despite her limitations. AR at
19. Specifically, the ALJ determined that Mrs. Martinez
retains the functional capacity to work as an assembler,
housekeeper, or electronics assembler. AR at 19.
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Mrs. Martinez is not
disabled as a matter of law, and denied benefits. AR