United States District Court, D. Colorado
FELECITA M. MONTOYA, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING IN PART AND REVERSING IN PART THE
DECISION DENYING PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR SOCIAL
SECURITY INCOME BENEFITS.
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on appeal of the Social Security
Commissioner's (“Commissioner”) decision
denying Plaintiff Felecita M. Montoya's
(“Plaintiff”) application for Social Security
Income Benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“Act”). The Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's Decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). For the following reasons, the Court affirms in part
and reverses in part the Decision.
was born in 1982, has a high school education, is able to
communicate in English, and has past relevant work experience
as a cleaner, janitor, housekeeper, home attendant, and child
monitor. (Doc. # 11-2 at 23). On November 14, 2013, Plaintiff
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
Benefits alleging her disability beginning on January 1, 2010
(Id. at 11), which the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denied on February 5,
2014. (Doc. # 11-3 at 2). On November 3, 2015, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing
on Plaintiff's claim and issued an unfavorable decision
on November 27, 2015. (Doc. # 11-2 at 11-25). On January 27,
2016, Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing
Decision/Order to the Appeals Council. (Doc. # 11-2 at 7).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's Request for Review
on December 21, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. # 11-2 at 2).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard of review in a Social Security appeal is whether the
Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial
evidence and whether she applied the correct legal standards.
Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir.
2005). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla and
is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. at 1262.
The district court may “not to reweigh the evidence or
try the issues de novo” but should “meticulously
examine the record as a whole, including anything that may
undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Id. at 1262. The court should determine if the
substantiality test has been met, regardless of whether it
would have reached a different result based on the record.
Ellison v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534, 536 (10th Cir.
is defined in the Act as the “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment…” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Act further provides that
“[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a
disability only if his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable
to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age,
education and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial work which exists in the national
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). The claimant bears the burden
of proving that she is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1512(a); Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1062
(10th Cir. 2009).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. 416.920(a). The steps are:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled. …
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement in §416.909, or a combination of
impairments that is severe and meets the duration
requirement, we will find that you are not disabled. …
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 to
subpart P of part 404 of this chapter and meets the duration
requirement, we will find that you are disabled. …
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled. ... (v) At the fifth and last step, we
consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity
and your age, education, and work experience to see if you
can make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an
adjustment to other work, we will find ...