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 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 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 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.
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 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).
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” 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.
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.
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.
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.
§§ 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,