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Montoya v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 30, 2017

FELECITA M. MONTOYA, Plaintiff,
v.
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.

         This 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The 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. 1990).

         III. AUTHORITY

         “Disability” 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 economy...”

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).

         The 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 ...

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