United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. YARBROUGH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record (Doc. 19) filed May 1, 2018, in support
of Plaintiff Marcelo Aragon's (“Plaintiff”)
Complaint (Doc. 1) seeking review of the decision of
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration, (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claims
for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI
supplemental security income. On August 7, 2018, Plaintiff
filed his Motion to Reverse and Remand for Rehearing With
Supporting Memorandum (“Motion”). Doc. 24. The
Commissioner filed a Response in opposition on October 10,
2018 (Doc. 26), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on October 22,
2018 (Doc. 27). 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 the Motion is well
taken and is GRANTED.
Background and Procedural Record
Claimant Marcelo Aragon (“Mr. Aragon”) alleges
that he became disabled on February 27, 2014, at the age of
forty-one because of arthritis, depression, diabetes, severe
hearing loss, vertigo, obesity, high blood pressure, brittle
teeth, difficulty reading and writing, and skin problems
(shingles). Tr. 210, 224. Mr. Aragon completed the twelfth grade
in 2001, and has worked as a custodian, customer service
representative, and as a director of audio visual in
hospitality. Tr. 225-26.
February 27, 2014, Mr. Aragon protectively 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. Tr. 197-98. He concurrently filed an application
for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under
Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.
Mr. Aragon's applications were initially denied on August
22, 2014. Tr. 71, 72, 73-84, 85-98, 129-32. They were denied
again at reconsideration on February 6, 2015. Tr. 97, 98,
99-113, 114-28, 140-42. Mr. Aragon requested a hearing before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and ALJ
James Bentley conducted a hearing on October 13, 2016. Tr.
40-70. Mr. Aragon appeared in person at the hearing with
attorney representative Michele Baca. Id. The ALJ
took testimony from Mr. Aragon, and an impartial vocational
expert (“VE”), Bonnie Ward. Id. On
November 18, 2016, ALJ Bentley issued an unfavorable
decision. Tr. 17-35.
September 27, 2017, the Appeals Council issued its decision
denying Mr. Aragon's request for review and upholding the
ALJ's final decision. Tr. 1-6. On November 22, 2017, Mr.
Aragon timely filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision. Doc. 1.
Disability Determination Process
individual is considered disabled if 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
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) (pertaining
to disability insurance benefits); see also 42
U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(A) (pertaining to supplemental
security income disability benefits for adult individuals).
The Social Security Commissioner has adopted the familiar
five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a person
satisfies the statutory criteria as follows:
(1) At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant
is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” If the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activity, he is not disabled regardless of his
(2) At step two, the ALJ must determine the severity of the
claimed physical or mental impairment(s). If the claimant
does not have an impairment(s) or combination of impairments
that is severe and meets the duration requirement, he is not
(3) At step three, the ALJ must determine whether a
claimant's impairment(s) meets or equals in severity one
of the listings described in Appendix 1 of the regulations
and meets the duration requirement. If so, a claimant is
(4) If, however, the claimant's impairments do not meet
or equal in severity one of the listing described in Appendix
1 of the regulations, the ALJ must determine at step four
whether the claimant can perform his “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 [his physical and mental]
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1),
416.945(a)(1). This is called the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). Id.
§§ 404.1545(a)(3), 416.945(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, the claimant is capable of meeting those
demands. A claimant who is capable of returning to past
relevant work is not disabled.
(5) If the claimant does not have the RFC to perform his past
relevant work, the Commissioner, at step five, must show that
the claimant is able to perform other work in the national
economy, considering the claimant's RFC, age, education,
and work experience. If the Commissioner is unable to make
that showing, the 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) (disability
insurance benefits); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)
(supplemental security income disability benefits);
Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729, 731 (10th
Cir. 2005); Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261
(10th Cir. 2005). The claimant has the initial
burden of establishing a disability in the first four steps
of this analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137,
146, n.5, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294, n. 5, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987).
The burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show
that the claimant is capable of performing work in the
national economy. Id. A finding that the claimant is
disabled or not disabled at any point in the five-step review
is conclusive and terminates the analysis. Casias v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 933 F.2d
799, 801 (10th Cir. 1991).
Standard of Review
Court must affirm the Commissioner's 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); Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d
1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004); Langley v.
Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir.
2004); Casias, 933 F.2d at 800-01. In making these
determinations, the 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). A decision is based on substantial
evidence where it is supported by “relevant evidence .
. . 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[, ]”
Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118, or “constitutes
mere conclusion.” Musgrave v. Sullivan, 966
F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992). The agency
decision must “provide this court with a sufficient
basis to determine that appropriate legal principles have
been followed.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d
1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 2005). Therefore, although
an ALJ is not required to discuss every piece of evidence,
“the record must demonstrate that the ALJ considered
all of the evidence, ” and “the [ALJ's]
reasons for finding a claimant not disabled” must be
“articulated with sufficient particularity.”
Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10
(10th Cir. 1996).
determined that Mr. Aragon was not disabled at step five of
the sequential evaluation. Tr. 33-35. In making this
determination, the ALJ found at step one that Mr. Aragon met
the insured status requirements through September 30, 2017,
and that he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since his alleged onset date. Tr. 22. At step two, the ALJ
found that since his alleged onset date, Mr. Aragon had
severe impairments of morbid obesity, osteoarthritis of the
bilateral knees, intermittent vertigo, and major depressive
disorder, recurrent, severe. Id. He also found
nonsevere impairments of bilateral sensorineural hearing
loss, GERD, sleep apnea, hypertension, asthma, and seasonal
allergies. Tr. 23. The ALJ further stated that he had
carefully considered Mr. Aragon's statements of chronic
pain. Tr. 22-23. The ALJ, however, determined that Mr.
Aragon's impairments did not meet or equal in ...