United States District Court, D. New Mexico
CATALINA J. ARAGON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. YARBROUGH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record (Doc. 14) filed October 6, 2017, in
connection with Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and
Remand for Rehearing With Supporting Memorandum, filed
December 5, 2017. Doc. 17. Defendant filed a Response on
February 6, 2018. (Doc. 19.) And Plaintiff filed a Reply on
February 22, 2018. Doc. 20. 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 that Plaintiff's
motion is well taken and shall be GRANTED.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Catalina J. Aragon (Ms. Aragon) alleges that she became
disabled on November 6, 2012, at the age of forty, because of
a learning disability, anxiety attacks, posttraumatic stress
syndrome, depression, ganglion cyst, carpal tunnel syndrome,
diabetes, and arthritis. (Tr. 172, 176.) Ms. Aragon completed
the eleventh grade in 1990, and has worked as a truck stop
cook, motel housekeeper, gas station cashier, and cotton
field laborer. Tr. 177.
Aragon protectively filed an application for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq., on January 15,
2013. Tr. 15, 151-57. Ms. Aragon's application was denied
at the initial level, Tr. 64, 65-79, 98-101, and at
reconsideration, Tr. 80-94, 95, 105-09. Upon Ms. Aragon's
request, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ann Farris held a
hearing on August 5, 2015. Tr. 30-53. On January 13, 2016,
ALJ Farris issued a written decision concluding that Ms.
Aragon was “not disabled” pursuant to the Act.
Tr. 12-25. On March 16, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Ms.
Aragon's request for review, rendering ALJ Farris's
January 13, 2016, decision the final decision of Defendant
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Tr.
1-3. Ms. Aragon timely filed a complaint on May 16, 2017,
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision. Doc. 1.
Disability Determination Process
claimant is considered disabled for purposes of Social
Security disability insurance benefits or supplemental
security income 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); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(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, 416.920. 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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4); Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d
729, 731 (10th Cir. 2005).
Standard of Review
court must affirm the denial of social security benefits
unless (1) the decision is not supported by
“substantial evidence” or (2) the ALJ did not
apply the proper legal standards in reaching the decision. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Casias v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Serv., 933 F.2d 799, 800-01 (10th Cir. 1991). In
making these determinations, the reviewing court
“neither reweigh[s] the evidence nor substitute[s]
[its] judgment for that of the agency.'” Bowman
v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008). For
example, a court's disagreement with a decision is
immaterial to the substantial evidence analysis. A decision
is supported by substantial evidence as long as it is
supported by “relevant evidence . . . a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support [the] conclusion.”
Casias, 933 F.3d at 800. While this requires more
than a mere scintilla of evidence, Casias, 933 F.3d
at 800, “[t]he 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.
even if a court agrees with a decision to deny benefits, if
the ALJ's reasons for the decision are improper or are
not articulated with sufficient particularity to allow for
judicial review, the court cannot affirm the decision as
legally correct. Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007,
1009 (10th Cir. 1996). As a baseline, the ALJ must support
his or her findings with specific weighing of the evidence
and “the record must demonstrate that the ALJ
considered all of the evidence.” Id. at
1009-10. This does not mean that an ALJ must discuss every
piece of evidence in the record. But, it does require that
the ALJ identify the evidence supporting the decision and
discuss any probative and contradictory evidence that the ALJ
is rejecting. Id. at 1010.
made her decision that Ms. Aragon was not disabled at step
five of the sequential evaluation. (Tr. 24-25.) The ALJ
determined that Ms. Aragon had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 15, 2013, the date of her
application. Tr. 17. She found that Ms. Aragon had severe
impairments of affective disorder, anxiety disorder,
personality disorder, drugs/substance addiction disorder,
carpal tunnel syndrome, and obesity. Tr. 17. The ALJ determined,
however, that Ms. Aragon's impairments did not meet or
equal in severity one of the listings described in the
governing regulations, 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. Tr. 18-19. Accordingly, the ALJ ...