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Olguin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

May 23, 2019

MARY ANN OLGUIN,, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          STEVEN C. YARBROUGH United States Magistrate Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security Administrative Record (Doc. 13) filed September 4, 2018, in support of Plaintiff Mary Ann Olguin'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 claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. On November 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Motion to Reverse and Remand for a Rehearing With Supporting Memorandum (“Motion”). Doc. 18. The Commissioner filed a Brief in Response on January 23, 2019 (Doc. 22), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on February 12, 2019. Doc. 23. 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.

         I. Background and Procedural Record

         Plaintiff Mary Ann Olguin (Ms. Olguin) alleges that she became disabled on October 31, 2013, at the age of fifty-two because of “extreme post traumatic stress syndrome”; “extreme depression”; “thought process is extremely confused”; “no concentration”; “cannot meet deadlines due to confusion”; “right hand is deteriorating due to laceration of ulnar [nerve]”; “arthritis in hand and shoulder due to overcompensation”; “possibly had small stroke when working with [the City of Albuquerque]”; “problems breathing”; and “have had injuries to disk in neck and back.” Tr. 214, 218 (some capitalization removed). Ms. Olguin completed a GED in 1977 and worked as a general construction inspector for the City of Albuquerque. Tr. 220. Ms. Olguin's date of last insured is June 30, 2019. Tr. 214.

         On July 1, 2016, Ms. Olguin 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. Her application was denied at the initial level (Tr. 78, 79-92, 108-111), and at reconsideration (Tr. 93, 95-107, 116-119). Upon Ms. Olguin's request, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Cole Gerstner held a hearing on December 28, 2017. Tr. 35-76. Ms. Olguin appeared at the hearing with attorney representative Feliz Martone.[2] Id. The ALJ took testimony from Ms. Olguin and from impartial vocational expert (VE) Molly Meloy Kellv. Id. On January 30, 2018, ALJ Gerstner issued a written decision concluding that Ms. Olguin was “not disabled” pursuant to the Act. Tr. 15-29. On April 3, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Ms. Olguin's request for review, rendering ALJ Gerstner's April 3, 2018 decision the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Tr. 1-5. Ms. Olguin timely filed a complaint on May 23, 2018, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. Doc. 1.

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Disability Determination Process

         An individual is considered disabled if 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) (pertaining to disability insurance benefits); see also Id. § 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 evaluation process (“SEP”) 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.”[3] If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled regardless of her medical condition.
(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, she is not disabled.
(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 presumed disabled.
(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 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 [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 her 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 (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).

         B. Stand ...


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