United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Fashing United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on plaintiff Antoinette
Anaya's Motion to Reverse or Remand (Doc. 17), which was
fully briefed on June 27, 2018. See Docs. 19, 24,
25. The parties consented to my entering final judgment in
this case. Docs. 4, 8, 9. Having meticulously reviewed the
entire record and being fully advised in the premises, I find
that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed
to do a proper function-by-function analysis. I therefore
GRANT Ms. Anaya's motion and remand this case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this
Standard of Review
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).
“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 and
brackets omitted). The Court must meticulously review the
entire record, but may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir.
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118. A 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 the Court
may not reweigh 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
ALJ'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)
(quoting Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200
(10th Cir. 2004)).
Applicable Law and Sequential Evaluation Process
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that he or 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); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a).
considering a disability application, the Commissioner is
required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 140 (1987). At the first four steps of the evaluation
process, the claimant must show: (1) the claimant is not
engaged in “substantial gainful activity”; (2)
the claimant 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) the impairment(s) either meet or equal one
of the Listings of presumptively disabling impairments;
or (4) the claimant is unable to perform his or her
“past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-iv); Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1260-61.
If the claimant cannot show that his or her impairment meets
or equals a Listing but proves that he or she is unable to
perform his or her “past relevant work, ” the
burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner, at step five, to
show that the claimant is able to perform other work in the
national economy, considering the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and
work experience. Id.
Background and Procedural History
Anaya was born in 1964, went to school through the 12th grade
and then earned a GED, and worked as a convenience store
cashier, a restaurant cook/manager, a security guard, and a
caregiver/“home attendant.” AR 40, 167,
She filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) on July 5, 2013, alleging disability
since April 13, 2013 due to blood clots. AR 167-73, 194. The
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied her
claim initially on February 13, 2014. AR 112-15. The SSA
denied her claims on reconsideration on September 12, 2014.
AR 121-26. Ms. Anaya requested a hearing before an ALJ. AR
164. On June 30, 2016, ALJ Lillian Richter held a hearing. AR
36-83. ALJ Richter issued an unfavorable decision on August
4, 2016. AR 14-35.
one, the ALJ found that Ms. Anaya had not engaged in
substantial, gainful activity from her alleged onset date of
April 13, 2013, through her date last insured of March 31,
2015. AR 19. At step two, the ALJ found that Ms.
Anaya suffered from the following severe impairments: acute
deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism; uterine
fibroids; menorrhagia; myalgia with fatigue; and depressive
disorder. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that none
of Ms. Anaya's impairments, alone or in combination, met
or medically equaled a Listing. AR 20-23. Because the ALJ
found that none of the impairments met a Listing, the ALJ
assessed Ms. Anaya's RFC. AR 23-29. The ALJ found Ms.
Anaya had the RFC to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.FR 404.1567(b) except
that she can frequently handle, finger, and feel bilaterally.
The claimant cannot balance and should not be exposed to
unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts. Additionally,
the claimant is limited to simple, routine, repetitive work.
She cannot work at an assembly-line production pace but can
meet end-of-day goals. Finally, the claimant can have
occasional interaction with co-workers and the public and can
have frequent interaction with supervisors.
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Anaya was unable to perform
her past relevant work as a “home attendant, ” or
as a manager at a fast food restaurant. AR 28-29. The ALJ
found Ms. Anaya not disabled at step five because she could
perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy-such as a photocopy machine operator, a
merchandise marker, and a housekeeping cleaner. AR 29-30.
September 19, 2016, Ms. Anaya requested review of the
ALJ's unfavorable decision by the Appeals Council. AR 5,
164. On July 20, 2017, the Appeals Council denied the request
for review. AR 1-6. Ms. Anaya timely filed her appeal to this
Court on August 11, 2017.Doc. 1.
Ms. Anaya's Claims
Anaya raises two arguments for reversing and remanding this
case: (1) the ALJ failed to do a proper function-by-function
analysis, and (2) the ALJ improperly relied on the opinions
of the non-examining state agency medical consultants.
See Doc. 17. For the reasons discussed below, I find
that the ALJ failed to do a proper function-by-function
analysis, and I remand on this basis. I do not address the
other alleged error, which “may be affected by the
ALJ's treatment of this case on remand.”
Watkins v. Barnhart, 350 F.3d 1297, 1299 (10th Cir.
The ALJ failed to do a proper function-by-function analysis
in formulating Ms. Anaya's RFC.
Anaya argues that the ALJ failed to do a proper
function-by-function analysis. Doc. 17 at 7-8. Specifically,
she argues that the ALJ failed to adequately consider
limitations in her abilities to stand, walk, and sit.
Id. The Commissioner argues that a
“hyper-technical function-by-function analysis is [not]
required, ” and that Ms. Anaya fails “to point to
any evidence showing that the ALJ overlooked any limitations
or restrictions.” Doc. 19 at 7. For the reasons
discussed below, I agree with Ms. Anaya.
Four of the sequential evaluation process is comprised of
three phases. Winfrey v. Chater, 92 ...