United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE OR
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff Richard Anthony
Contreras' Motion to Reverse and Remand for Rehearing
(Doc. 20). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiff's Motion and remands for proceedings consistent
with this Opinion.
September 20, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Title XVI application
for supplemental security income. AR 24. Plaintiff claimed
disability due to impingement of the sciatic nerve, spinal
stenosis, degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, and
“mental condition.” AR 73. Plaintiff claimed a
disability onset date of March 24, 1998. AR 73.
Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on January 15,
2013, and upon reconsideration on July 29, 2013. AR 24. On
August 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing. AR 24. The hearing was held on August 17, 2015. AR
24. On September 25, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 39.
the parties are familiar with the record in this case, the
Court will reserve discussion of Plaintiff's relevant
medical history for its analysis.
Disability Determination Process
claimant is considered disabled for purposes of Social
Security disability insurance benefits 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). 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. 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
is presumed disabled and the analysis stops.
(4) If, however, claimant's impairment(s) are not
equivalent to a listed impairment, claimant must establish
that the impairment(s) prevent her from doing her “past
relevant work.” Answering this question involves three
phases. Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1023 (10th
Cir. 1996). First, the ALJ considers all of the relevant
medical and other evidence and determines what is “the
most [claimant] can still do despite [her physical and
mental] limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).
This is called the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). Id. §
404.1545(a)(3). Second, the ALJ determines the physical and
mental demands of claimant's past work. Third, the ALJ
determines whether, given claimant's RFC, claimant is
capable of meeting those demands. A claimant who is capable
of returning to past relevant work is not disabled and the
(5) At this point, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
show that claimant is able to “make an adjustment to
other work.” If the Commissioner is unable to make that
showing, claimant is deemed disabled. If, however, the
Commissioner is able to make the required showing, the
claimant is deemed not disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. § 1520(a)(4); Fischer-Ross v.
Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005).