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Holmes v. Saul

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 22, 2019

YVONNE E. HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [2]

          STEVEN C. YARBOUGHS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Social Security Administrative Record filed January 30, 2019, Doc. 19, in support of Plaintiff Yvonne E. Holmes' Complaint, Doc. 1, seeking review of the decision of Defendant Andrew Saul, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. On April 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Motion To Reverse Or Remand Administrative Agency Decision, Doc. 22, and Memorandum In Support, Doc. 23. The Commissioner filed a Brief in Response on May 30, 2019. Doc. 25. Plaintiff did not file a reply, and the time to do so has expired. 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 not well taken and is DENIED.

         I. Background and Procedural Record

         Claimant Yvonne E. Holmes suffers from the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, sleep apnea, anxiety, asthma, knee arthritis, and methamphetamine addiction in early remission. Administrative Record (“AR”) at 18. She alleges that she became disabled as of January 4, 2013. Id. She completed eighth grade and has a GED. AR 251. She has past work experience as a bus driver and home attendant. AR 23, 36-37, 49-51.

         On July 14, 2014, Ms. Holmes filed a claim of disability under Title II. AR 23. She filed a claim under Title XVI on July 21, 2014. Id. Her applications were initially denied on December 15, 2014 (AR 64-65), and upon reconsideration on April 24, 2015 (AR 144-45). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Raul C. Pardo conducted a hearing on January 4, 2017. AR 40-54. Ms. Holmes appeared in person at the hearing with attorney representative Jamie M. Dawson. AR 40. The ALJ took testimony from Ms. Holmes and an impartial vocational expert (“VE”), Karen Provine. AR 40, 196.

         On March 23, 2017, ALJ Pardo issued an unfavorable decision. AR 12-24. After the Appeals Council denied review on April 20, 2018, AR 1, Ms. Holmes appealed to federal court. Doc. 1. The ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review.

         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 listings 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, ...

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