United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. RITTER U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Ray Tenorio's
Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing with Supporting
Memorandum, [Doc. 15], filed April 6, 2018. Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
73(b), the parties have consented to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge to conduct dispositive proceedings in this
matter, including the entry of final judgment. [Docs. 4, 7,
8]. Having studied the parties' positions, the relevant
law, and the relevant portions of the Administrative Record
(“AR”), the Court grants Mr.
Tenorio's Motion for the reasons set forth below.
Court's institutional role is to ensure that the
Commissioner's decision to deny Social Security benefits
is supported by the law and substantial evidence. In this
case, the Commissioner failed to meet both standards when she
effectively rejected the uncontroverted medical diagnoses and
opinions of consultative examiner Paula Hughson, M.D. As
such, the Court has no choice but to remand Mr. Tenorio's
case for additional proceedings.
Tenorio filed an application with the Social Security
Administration for supplemental security income benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act on August 7, 2013.
AR at 187-188. He alleged a disability onset date of
November 2, 2002, due to “PTSD, Anxiety, Depression,
Seizures, Right Ear Deafness, Right Eye Blindness, No. Left
Kidney, [and] Memory Loss - Both Short and Long term.”
AR at 93-94. The Administration denied Mr.
Tenorio's claim initially and upon reconsideration, and
he requested a de novo hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). AR at
Raul Pardo held an evidentiary hearing on September 23, 2016.
AR at 48-91. On December 28, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision, finding that Mr. Tenorio has not been
under a disability from his alleged onset date through the
date of his decision. AR at 26-47. In response, Mr.
Tenorio filed a “Request for Review of Hearing
Decision/Order” on February 9, 2017. AR at
185-186. After reviewing his case, the Appeals Council denied
Mr. Tenorio's request for review on November 6, 2017.
AR at 1-2. As such, the ALJ's decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner. Doyal v.
Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 759 (10th Cir. 2003). This Court
now has jurisdiction to review the decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a).
claimant seeking disability benefits must establish that 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a). The
Commissioner must use a five-step sequential evaluation
process to determine eligibility for benefits. 20 C.F.R.
One of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that
Mr. Tenorio has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since his application date. AR at 31. At Step Two,
he determined that Mr. Tenorio has the severe impairments of
“vision disturbance in right eye; right ear hearing
loss; anxiety; depression, seizures, [and] alcohol abuse in
recent remission[.]” AR at 31. At Step Three,
the ALJ concluded that Mr. Tenorio's impairments,
individually and in combination, do not meet or medically
equal the regulatory “listings.” AR at
33-36. Mr. Tenorio does not challenge these findings on
appeal. [See Doc. 15].
claimant does not meet a listed impairment, the ALJ must
determine his residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). “RFC
is not the least an individual can do despite his or
her limitations or restrictions, but the
most.” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *1. In
this case, the ALJ determined that Mr. Tenorio retains the
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except he
is able to handle frequently bilaterally; climb ramps and
stairs occasionally and never ladders, ropes or scaffolds;
and stoop occasionally. He is limited to avoid ordinary
hazards in the workplace (e.g., boxes on floor, doors ajar,
etc.) due to vision issues; and to avoid unprotected heights
and moving mechanical parts occasionally due to seizures. He
is limited to moderate noise due to right ear deafness. The
claimant is limited to simple, routine tasks; respond
appropriately to public occasionally. Time off task can be
accommodated with normal breaks.
AR at 36-37.
this RFC at Steps Four and Five, and relying on the testimony
of a Vocational Expert, the ALJ determined that Mr. Tenorio
is unable to perform his past relevant work as a courtesy
clerk and a janitor. AR at 42. However, the ALJ
found that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy that Mr. Tenorio can perform despite
his limitations. AR at 42-43. Specifically, the ALJ
determined that Mr. Tenorio retains the functional capacity
to work as a cleaner housekeeper or office helper, despite
his impairments. AR at 43. Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Mr. Tenorio is not disabled as defined in the
Social Security Act, and denied benefits. AR at 43.