Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bailey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 19, 2018

LACI LEANNE BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          STEPHAN M. VIDMAR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and Remand for Rehearing, with Supporting Memorandum [Doc. 23] (“Motion”), filed on June 30, 2018. The Commissioner responded on August 24, 2018. [Doc. 24]. Plaintiff replied on September 18, 2018. [Doc. 25]. The parties have consented to my entering final judgment in this case. [Doc. 20]. Having meticulously reviewed the entire record and being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in evaluating the medical opinion of Dr. Werner. Accordingly, the Motion will be GRANTED, and the case will be remanded for further proceedings. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2018) (sentence four).

         Standard of Review

         The standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the Commissioner's final decision[1] 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).

         “Substantial 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 re-weigh 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) (citing Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (10th Cir. 2004)).

         “The 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 omitted).

         Applicable Law and Sequential Evaluation Process

          In order to qualify for disability benefits, a claimant 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a).

         When considering a disability application, the Commissioner is required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). At the first four steps of the evaluation process, the claimant must show: (1) she is not engaged in “substantial gainful activity”; and (2) she 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) her impairment(s) either meet or equal one of the “Listings”[2] of presumptively disabling impairments; or (4) she is unable to perform her “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv), 416.920(a)(4)(i-iv); Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261. If she cannot show that her impairment meets or equals a Listing, but she proves that she is unable to perform her “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 her residual functional capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work experience. Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261.

         Procedural Background

          Plaintiff applied for a period of child insurance benefits and supplemental security income on March 27, 2014. Tr. 20. She alleged a disability-onset date of May 19, 2002, the day before her eighteenth birthday. Id. Her claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. ALJ James Linehan held a hearing on October 25, 2016, in McAlester, Oklahoma. Plaintiff appeared via videoconference with her attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tr. 20, 34-57. The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff and an impartial vocational expert (“VE”), Melissa Brassfield. Id.

         The ALJ issued his unfavorable decision on December 5, 2016. Tr. 28. At step one he found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of May 19, 2002. Id. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from one severe impairment: asthma. Id. Further, he found that Plaintiff's gastrointestinal impairments were not severe. Tr. 22-23.

         At step three the ALJ determined that none of Plaintiff's impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically equaled a Listing. Tr. 23. Because none of Plaintiff's impairments met or medically equaled a Listing, the ALJ went on to assess Plaintiff's RFC. Tr. 23-26. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had:

the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). [Plaintiff] can lift 20 lbs occasionally[] and can lift and carry 10 lbs frequently. [Plaintiff] can sit, stand and walk up to 8 hours each activity per 8[-]hour day. [Plaintiff] has unlimited use of feet for foot controls. [Plaintiff] has frequent pushing, pulling and overhead reaching with both arms and frequent use of the hands for fingering, feeling and handling. [Plaintiff] has frequent balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.