Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gonzalez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 25, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Laura Fashing United States Magistrate Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on plaintiff Josephine Gonzalez's Motion to Reverse or Remand (Doc. 20), which was fully briefed on October 8, 2018. Docs. 22, 24, 25, 26, [1] 29. The parties consented to my entering final judgment in this case. Doc. 19. Having meticulously reviewed the record and being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to properly develop the record as to whether Ms. Gonzalez had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The Court therefore GRANTS Ms. Gonzalez's motion and remands this case for further proceedings.

         I. Standard of Review

          The standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the Commissioner's final decision[2] 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).

         “Substantial 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 an administrative agency's findings from being supported by substantial evidence. We may not displace the agenc[y's] choice between two fairly conflicting views, even though the court would justifiably have made a different choice had the matter been before it de novo.

Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted) (brackets in original).

         II. Applicable Law and Sequential Evaluation Process

          To 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. § 416.905(a).

         When considering a disability application, the Commissioner is required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 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) 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[3] of presumptively disabling impairments; or (4) the claimant is unable to perform his or her “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(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.

         III. Background and Procedural History

         Ms. Gonzalez is a 58-year-old married woman who lives with her husband and adult daughter. AR 37, 38, 203-04, 207.[4] Ms. Gonzalez's husband works. AR 37. Her adult daughter is disabled, and Ms. Gonzalez assists in the care of her daughter. AR 38, 46. Ms. Gonzalez has a history of working as a hand packer, inspector, and customer service representative. AR 53-54, 238.

         Ms. Gonzalez filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits on June 10, 2014, and Supplemental Security Income on July 26, 2014, [5] alleging disability beginning February 6, 2014, due to fibromyalgia, asthma, osteoporosis, and arthritis. AR 192, 203-13, 236. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied her claims initially and on reconsideration. AR 59-131, 136-41. Ms. Gonzalez requested a hearing on April 17, 2015. AR 142-49. On November 8, 2016, ALJ James R. Linehan held a hearing, at which Ms. Gonzalez and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. AR 34-58. Ms. Gonzalez appeared at the hearing with counsel. AR 34, 36. ALJ Linehan issued his unfavorable decision on December 1, 2016. AR 10-33.

         The ALJ determined that Ms. Gonzalez met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018. AR 15. At step one, the ALJ found that Ms. Gonzalez had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 6, 2014, the alleged onset date. Id. Because Ms. Gonzalez had not engaged in substantial gainful activity for at least twelve months, the ALJ proceeded to step two. At step two, the ALJ found that Ms. Gonzalez had the following severe impairments: “cervical degenerative disc disease; left upper extremity tendonitis/bursitis; mild left upper extremity carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS); osteoporosis; osteopenia; and obesity.” AR 15 (citations omitted). The ALJ found that Ms. Gonzalez's fibromyalgia, asthma, and depression were non-severe. AR 16. He specifically found that “because the file contains no evidence showing that the claimant's fibromyalgia was diagnosed ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.