United States District Court, D. Colorado
AMBROSE D. MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
BROOKE JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on review of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) Commissioner's
decision denying claimant Ambrose D. Martinez's
application for supplemental security income benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Jurisdiction is proper
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons explained
below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
appeal is based upon the administrative record and the
parties' briefs. In reviewing a final decision by the
Commissioner, the District Court examines the record and
determines whether it contains substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's decision and whether the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Winfrey
v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir. 1996). A
decision is not based on substantial evidence if it is
“overwhelmed by other evidence in the record.”
Bernal v. Bowen, 851 F.2d 297, 299 (10th Cir. 1988).
Substantial evidence requires “more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance.” Wall v.
Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009). Evidence
is not substantial if it “constitutes mere
conclusion.” Musgrave v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d
1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992). Reversal may also be appropriate
if the Commissioner applies an incorrect legal standard or
fails to demonstrate that the correct legal standards have
been followed. Winfrey, 92 F.3d at 1019.
Martinez was born in 1986 and was 27 years old at the alleged
disability onset date. R. 35. He graduated from eighth grade
but did not graduate from high school or obtain his GED. R.
36. Though he held a part-time job in the past, Mr. Martinez
has never worked full-time. R. 43. He lives in Pueblo,
Colorado with his girlfriend and his girlfriend's
grandchild. R. 49. Mr. Martinez reports that while he
occasionally does the dishes and takes out the trash, his
girlfriend does the majority of the household chores and
childcare. R. 43-45.
Martinez has a history of alcohol abuse. He started drinking
at the age of 12, and since that time he has received three
DUIs and has undergone court-ordered alcohol treatment. R.
39. In addition to his drinking problem, he also has social
anxiety, depression, and a learning disability. R. 18. Mr.
Martinez has no reported or alleged physical disabilities.
Martinez filed a claim for supplemental security income on
June 18, 2013. R. 15. After Mr. Martinez failed to appear at
his December 1, 2014 hearing, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), Kathryn D. Burgchardt, dismissed his
claim. R. 78. The Appeals Council remanded his case back to
the ALJ for a determination of whether Mr. Martinez had good
cause for missing the hearing. R. 84-85. At the resulting
November 17, 2015 hearing the ALJ found that Mr. Martinez did
not have good cause but allowed his claim to proceed
nonetheless. R. 29- 35. The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on January 28, 2016. R. 10. Mr. Martinez appealed
this decision, but the Appeals Council denied Mr.
Martinez's Request for Review on February 23, 2017. R.
1-3. Mr. Martinez timely sought review by this Court. ECF No.
The ALJ's Decision.
issued an unfavorable decision after evaluating the evidence
according to the SSA's standard five-step process. R.
13-21. First, the ALJ found that Mr. Martinez had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date.
R. 15. At step two, the ALJ found that Mr. Martinez's
learning disability, anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse
were severe when viewed in combination. Id. However,
the ALJ found that the following alleged conditions did not
represent medically determinable impairments or were
nonsevere: hypertension, mixed hyperlipidemia, and obesity.
Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded that Mr.
Martinez did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled a Listing. R. 16.
Also during this step, the ALJ assessed Mr. Martinez's
mental impairments in accordance with the psychiatric-review
technique required by Social Security regulations.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920a. This technique
required the ALJ to assess the degree to which Mr.
Martinez's mental impairments limit his functioning in
four areas: (1) daily living; (2) social functioning; (3)
concentration, persistence, and pace; and (4) episodes of
decompensation. Id. The ALJ found that Mr. Martinez
had a mild restriction in activities of daily living and
moderate difficulties in both social functioning and
concentration, persistence, and pace, but that Mr. Martinez
has had no episodes of decompensation of note. R. 16.
then found that Mr. Martinez retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work
at all exertional levels but with the following limitations:
the work must be unskilled; the work must have a specific
vocational preparation (“SVP”) level of 2 or
less; the work cannot be in close proximity to co-workers,
supervisors, as a member of a team, and cannot have prolonged
contact with the public; and the work must involve minimal to
no reading, writing, or math. R. 17.
four, the ALJ noted that Mr. Martinez has no past relevant
work. R. 19. At step five, the ALJ determined that there are
jobs in the national economy that Mr. Martinez is able to
perform, such as a small products assembler, a housekeeper,
or a commercial cleaner. ...