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Peralta v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 15, 2018

KENNETH MARC PERALTA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          KIRTAN KHALSA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security Administrative Record (Doc. 17) filed March 5, 2018, in support of Plaintiff Kenneth Marc Peralta's (“Plaintiff”) Complaint (Doc. 1) seeking review of the decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claim for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental security income benefits. On June 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Motion to Remand or Reverse (“Motion”). (Doc. 22.) The Commissioner filed a Response in opposition on August 3, 2018 (Doc. 24), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on August 18, 2018. (Doc. 25.) The Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Having meticulously reviewed the entire record and the applicable law and being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds the Motion is well taken and is GRANTED.

         I. Background and Procedural Record

         Claimant Kenneth Marc Peralta (“Mr. Peralta”) alleges that he became disabled on March 27, 2013, at the age of forty-six because of diabetes type 1, kidney transplant, insomnia, high blood pressure, and anxiety. (Tr. 254, 257.[2]) Mr. Peralta completed the twelfth grade in 1984, and worked as a casino maintenance tech and counter top production employee. (Tr. 258.)

         On July 1, 2013, Mr. Peralta protectively filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. (Tr. 91, 229-30.) Mr. Peralta also filed for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. (Tr. 92, 231-32.) Mr. Peralta's applications were initially denied on April 9, 2014. (Tr. 78-90, 91, 92, 93-105, 146-49, 150-53.) They were denied again at reconsideration on November 25, 2014. (Tr. 106, 107, 108-122, 123-137, 157-59, 160-63.) On December 18, 2014, Mr. Peralta requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 164-65.) The ALJ conducted a hearing on September 14, 2016. (Tr. 46-77.) Mr. Peralta appeared in person at the hearing with attorney representative Angela Adkins.[3] (Id.) The ALJ took testimony from Mr. Peralta (Tr. 52-70), and an impartial vocational expert (“VE”), Bonnie Ward. (Tr. 71-77.) On October 28, 2016, ALJ Doug Gabbard, II, issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 25-39.) On October 14, 2017, the Appeals Council issued its decision denying Mr. Peralta's request for review and upholding the ALJ's final decision. (Tr. 1-7.) On November 16, 2017, Mr. Peralta timely filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. 1.)

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Disability Determination Process

         An individual is considered disabled if 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) (pertaining to disability insurance benefits); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(A) (pertaining to supplemental security income disability benefits for adult individuals). The Social Security Commissioner has adopted the familiar five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a person satisfies the statutory criteria as follows:

(1) At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”[4] If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled regardless of his medical condition.
(2) At step two, the ALJ must determine the severity of the claimed physical or mental impairment(s). If the claimant does not have an impairment(s) or combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, he is not disabled.
(3) At step three, the ALJ must determine whether a claimant's impairment(s) meets or equals in severity one of the listings described in Appendix 1 of the regulations and meets the duration requirement. If so, a claimant is presumed disabled.
(4) If, however, the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal in severity one of the listing described in Appendix 1 of the regulations, the ALJ must determine at step four whether the claimant can perform his “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), 416.945(a)(1). This is called the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). Id. §§ 404.1545(a)(3), 416.945(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, the claimant is capable of meeting those demands. A claimant who is capable of returning to past relevant work is not disabled.
(5) If the claimant does not have the RFC to perform his past relevant work, the Commissioner, at step five, must show that the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy, considering the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. If the Commissioner is unable to make that showing, the 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. § 404.1520(a)(4) (disability insurance benefits); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) (supplemental security income disability benefits); Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). The claimant has the initial burden of establishing a disability in the first four steps of this analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146, n.5, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294, n. 5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). The burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show that the claimant is capable of performing work in the national economy. Id. A finding that the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any ...


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