United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
C. Trough, United States Magistrate Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record (Doc. 13) filed August 27, 2018, in
support of Plaintiff Inga Jo Reyes' Complaint (Doc. 1)
seeking review of the decision of Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration, 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 5, 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 18, 2019 (Doc. 21), and
Plaintiff filed a Reply on February 18, 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
Background and Procedural Record
Inga Jo Reyes suffers from the following severe impairments:
peripheral neuropathy, spine disorders, curvature of the
spine, affective disorders, diabetes mellitus, and anxiety
disorders. Administrative Record (“AR”) at 14.
She alleges that she became disabled as of August 20, 2014.
AR 11, 90. She has a high school-equivalent education and
worked in the past as a restaurant server or hostess. AR
44-45, 50, 311.
August 28, 2014, Ms. Reyes filed concurrent claims of
disability under Title II and Title XVI. AR 156. Her
applications were initially denied on January 23, 2015 (AR
156-57), and upon reconsideration on June 23, 2015 (AR
192-93). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michael
Leppala conducted a hearing on March 30, 2017. AR 35. Ms.
Reyes appeared in person at the hearing with attorney
representative Michael Armstrong. Id. The ALJ took
testimony from Ms. Reyes and an impartial vocational expert
(“VE”), Phunda P. Yarbrough. AR 35, 253.
8, 2017, ALJ Leppala issued a partially favorable decision.
AR 11-21. He determined that Ms. Reyes' date last insured
is June 20, 2015. AR 13. He found that Ms. Reyes was not
disabled between August 20, 2014 and January 28, 2016, but
became disabled on January 28, 2016 when she turned fifty
years old. AR 12, 21. He denied the Title II application
because Ms. Reyes was not disabled as of her date last
insured, but granted the Title XVI application for
supplemental security income beginning on January 28, 2016.
AR 21. Ms. Reyes requested review of the decision denying
Title II benefits. On April 19, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied Ms. Reyes' request for review and upheld the
ALJ's final decision. AR 1-6. On June 20, 2018, Ms. Reyes
timely filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. Doc. 1. Because the
parties are familiar with Ms. Reyes' medical history, the
Court reserves discussion of the medical records relevant to
this appeal for its analysis.
Disability Determination Process
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
(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, she is not disabled regardless of her
(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
(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 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 [her 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,