United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. RITTER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Julie Catana Saiz'
Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing with Supporting
Memorandum [Doc. 15');">15], filed September 5, 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 serving as the presiding judge and entering
final judgment. [Docs. 5, 7, 9]. Having studied the
parties' submissions, the relevant law, and the relevant
portions of the Administrative Record,  the Court will
deny the Motion.
Court's institutional role in a social security appeal is
specific and narrow. This Court must affirm the decision of
the Acting Commissioner where it is shown to be supported by
substantial evidence and is free from harmful legal error.
Ms. Saiz argues that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) who denied her claim failed to meet these
deferential standards by improperly rejecting the functional
limitations identified by one of her treating counselors,
Juan Casaus, MA, LPCC. However, having reviewed Mr.
Casaus' treatment notes and the ALJ's rationale for
rejecting his opinions in her decision, the Court is not
convinced that the ALJ erred. To the contrary, the ALJ's
reasons for rejecting Mr. Casaus' opinions are supported
by substantial evidence. As such, the ALJ's decision must
Saiz filed an application with the Social Security
Administration for disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act on July 18, 2014. AR
at 147. She alleged a disability onset date of August 10,
2013, the day she stopped working, due to Depression, Anxiety
and Hepatitis-C. AR at 60, 147. Ms. Saiz most
recently worked as a title clerk at an automobile dealership.
AR at 34. She testified that she can no longer work
in this capacity because she started having panic attacks
associated with stress. AR at 34-35.
agency denied Ms. Saiz' claims initially and upon
reconsideration, and she requested a de novo hearing
before an ALJ. AR at 59-93. ALJ Ann Farris held an
evidentiary hearing on December 9, 2016. AR at
29-58. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 29,
2017. AR at 12-28. Ms. Saiz submitted a Request for
Review of the ALJ's Decision to the Appeals Council,
which the Council denied on March 14, 2018. AR at
1-11. 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 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. § 404.15');">1505(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
Ms. Saiz has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date. AR at 17. At Step Two,
she determined that Ms. Saiz has the severe impairments of
“anxiety, depression, substance abuse now in remission,
and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)[.]”
AR at 15');">15. At Step Three, the ALJ concluded that Ms.
Saiz' impairments, individually and in combination, do
not meet or medically equal the regulatory
“listings.” AR at 18-19. Ms. Saiz does
not challenge these findings on appeal. [See
generally Doc. 15');">15].
claimant does not meet a listed impairment, the ALJ must
determine her residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.15');">1520(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 Ms. Saiz retains the RFC
to “perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: she
is limited to simple, work-related decisions with few
workplace changes. She should not be required to have
interaction with the general public. She can have occasional,
superficial interaction with co-workers.” AR
this RFC at Steps Four and Five, and relying on the testimony
of a Vocational Expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Saiz is unable to perform her past relevant work as
an accounts payable clerk, food supervisor, bath attendant,
customer service representative, or license clerk.
AR at 22. However, the ALJ found that there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Ms. Saiz can perform, despite her limitations.
AR at 23-24. Specifically, the ALJ determined that
Ms. Saiz retains the capacity to work as an addresser, flat
work tier, or prep cook. AR at 23-24. Accordingly,
the ALJ determined that Ms. Saiz is not disabled as defined
in the Social Security Act, and denied benefits. AR
Court “review[s] the Commissioner's decision to
determine whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards
were applied.” Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199,
1201 (10th Cir. 2015');">15) (quoting Mays v. Colvin, 739
F.3d 569, 571 (10th Cir. 2014)). “[I]n making this
determination, [this Court] cannot reweigh the evidence or
substitute [its] judgment for the administrative law
judge's.” Smith v. Colvin, 821 F.3d 1264,
1266 (10th Cir. 2016). The Court must exercise “common
sense” when determining whether the substantial
evidence standard has been met; if the Court can follow the
ALJ's reasoning, the decision must stand.
Keyes-Zachary v. Astrue, 15');">156');">695 F.3d 115');">156, 1166 (10th
Cir. 2012). The standard for a decision to be supported by
substantial evidence is low. “‘Substantial
evidence' means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Howard v. Barnhart, 379 F.3d 945, 947 (10th Cir.
2004). “It requires more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d
1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007).