United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION TO REVERSE OR REMAND
STEPHAN M. VIDMAR United States Magistrate Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Reverse or Remand for a Rehearing with Supporting Memorandum
[Doc. 17] (“Motion”), filed on May 31, 2019. The
Commissioner responded on August 28, 2019. [Doc. 21].
Plaintiff replied on September 29, 2019. [Doc. 24]. The
parties have consented to my entering final judgment in this
case. [Doc. 10]. Having meticulously reviewed the entire
record and being fully advised in the premises, the Court
finds that Plaintiff fails to show reversible error in the
Administrative Law Judge's evaluation of certain source
opinions. The Motion will be denied, and the
Commissioner's final decision, affirmed.
standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the
Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial
evidence and whether the correct legal standards were
applied. Maes v. Astrue, 522 F.3d 1093, 1096 (10th
Cir. 2008). If substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's findings and the correct legal standards
were applied, the Commissioner's decision stands and the
plaintiff is not entitled to relief. Langley v.
Barnhart, 373 F.3d 1116, 1118 (10th Cir. 2004). Courts
must meticulously review the entire record, but may neither
reweigh the evidence nor substitute their judgment for that
of the Commissioner. Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d
1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007).
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Langley, 373 F.3d at 1118. The decision “is
not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by
other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla
of evidence supporting it.” Id. While a court
may not re-weigh the evidence or try the issues de novo, its
examination of the record as a whole must include
“anything that may undercut or detract from the
[Commissioner]'s findings in order to determine if the
substantiality test has been met.” Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2005).
“The possibility of drawing two inconsistent
conclusions from the evidence does not prevent [the] findings
from being supported by substantial evidence.” Lax
v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing
Zoltanski v. F.A.A., 372 F.3d 1195, 1200 (10th Cir.
failure to apply the correct legal standard or to provide
this court with a sufficient basis to determine that
appropriate legal principles have been followed is grounds
for reversal.” Jensen v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d
1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 2005) (quotation marks omitted).
Law and Sequential Evaluation Process
order to qualify for disability benefits, a claimant 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),
1382c(a)(3)(A) (2018); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a),
considering a disability application, the Commissioner is
required to use a five-step sequential evaluation process.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2012). At the first
four steps of the evaluation process, the claimant must show:
(1) she is not engaged in “substantial gainful
activity”; and (2) she has a “severe
medically determinable . . . impairment . . . or a
combination of impairments” that has lasted or is
expected to last for at least one year; and (3) her
impairment(s) either meet or equal one of the
“Listings”of presumptively disabling impairments;
or (4) she is unable to perform her “past
relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §§
Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261. If she cannot show that
her impairment meets or equals a Listing, but she proves that
she is unable to perform her “past relevant work,
” the burden of proof then shifts to the Commissioner,
at step five, to show that the claimant is able to perform
other work in the national economy, considering her residual
functional capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and
work experience. Grogan, 399 F.3d at 1261.
applied for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income on September 11,
2012. Tr. 12. She alleged a disability-onset date of February
15, 2012. Tr. 686. Her claims were denied by an ALJ but
remanded once by this Court. Tr. 12-25, 826-40; Yalch v.
Berryhill, No. 16-cv-1167 LF (D.N.M. May 9, 2018). ALJ
Ann Farris consolidated the claims with a new set of claims
Plaintiff had filed when she appealed to federal court the
first time. The ALJ held a second administrative hearing on
September 27, 2018, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tr. 686.
Plaintiff appeared in person at the hearing with her
attorney. Tr. 686, 709-43. The ALJ heard testimony from
Plaintiff and an impartial vocational expert
(“VE”), Karen N. Provine. Tr. 686, 712, 738-42.
issued her most recent unfavorable decision on November 21,
2018. Tr. 700. She found that Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements of the Social Security Act through June
13, 2016. Tr. 688. At step one, she found that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date. Id. At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments:
“degenerative joint disease of the knees, fibromyalgia,
obesity, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and
post-traumatic stress disorder.” Tr. 689. The ALJ also
found that Plaintiff's chronic low back pain, plantar
fasciitis, history of kidney stones, endometriosis, fatty
liver, and migraine headaches were not severe. Id.
three, the ALJ determined that none of Plaintiff's
impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically
equaled a Listing. Tr. 690-92. Because none of
Plaintiff's impairments met or medically equaled a
Listing, the ALJ went on to assess Plaintiff's RFC. Tr.
692-98. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had:
the [RFC] to perform less than a full range of sedentary work
as defined in 20 [C.F.R. §§] 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a). She must be allowed to between alternate sitting
and standing for brief periods approximately hourly; can
frequently (but not constantly) handle and finger; must avoid
hazards, such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving
machinery; can occasionally climb stairs but never ladders or
scaffolds; can occasionally balance and stoop; cannot kneel,
crouch, or crawl; and cannot interact with the public.
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform past
relevant work as a nursery school attendant or cashier
checker. Tr. 698. Accordingly, the ALJ went on to consider
Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, work experience, and the
testimony of the VE at step five. Tr. 699-700. She found that
Plaintiff could perform work that exists in significant
numbers in the national ...