United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. YARBROUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record (Doc. 11) filed January 2, 2018, in
connection with Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and
Remand for Rehearing With Supporting Memorandum, filed
March 19, 2018. Doc. 17. Defendant filed a Response on May
14, 2018. Doc. 19. And Plaintiff filed a Reply on June 1,
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
Celeste Lucero (Ms. Lucero) alleges that she became disabled
on June 3, 2010, at the age of twenty-nine, because of
rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Tr. 171. Ms. Lucero
completed the twelfth grade in 1998, and worked as a sales
associate and general clerk. Tr. 172, 206-10. Ms.
Lucero's date of last insured is December 31, 2014. Tr.
Lucero 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., on August 23, 2013. Tr. 152-53. Ms.
Lucero's application was denied at the initial level (Tr.
64-73, 74, 88-91), and at reconsideration (Tr. 75-86, 87,
96-100). Upon Ms. Lucero's request, Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Deirdre Dexter held a hearing on August 17, 2016.
Tr. 25-63. Attorney Johnathan Woods represented Ms. Lucero at
that hearing. Id. On August 31, 2016, ALJ
Dexter issued a written decision concluding that Ms. Lucero
was “not disabled” pursuant to the Act. 8-19. On
August 9, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Ms. Lucero's
request for review, rendering ALJ Dexter's August 31,
2016, decision the final decision of Defendant the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Tr. 1-5.
Ms. Lucero timely filed a complaint on September 21, 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
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. 2004)).
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.