United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DISABILITY
S. Krieger Judge
MATTER comes before the Court as an appeal from the
Commissioner's Final Administrative Decision
(“Decision”) determining that the Plaintiff
Hector Marquez-Hernandez is not disabled within the meaning
of sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social
Security Act. Having considered all of the documents filed,
including the record (#14), the Court now
finds and concludes as follows:
Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision
of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez protectively filed applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the
Social Security Act in January 2014. He claimed that he was
disabled based beginning July 1, 2013. The state agency
denied his claim. He requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who issued an
unfavorable decision. Mr. Marquez-Hernandez appealed to the
Appeals Council, which denied his request for review, making
the ALJ's determination the final decision of the
Commissioner. Mr. Marquez-Hernandez timely appealed to this
Court, which reviews the ALJ's decision as the
Commissioner's final denial of benefits. Doyal v.
Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 759 (10th Cir. 2003).
Court offers a brief summary of the facts here and elaborates
as necessary in its analysis.
Marquez-Hernandez was born in 1967. He was 46 years on his
initially-alleged disability onset date in July 2013, and 48
years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He has a
high school education and one year of college. He has work
history as a press operator for graphics and printing
companies. Mr. Marquez-Hernandez reported having a stroke in
July 2013, at which time he stopped working. He suffered a
second stroke in October 2013. Mr. Marquez-Hernandez has
since experienced various stroke-related symptoms, including
impaired vision, partial paralysis or weakness on his right
side, and slurred speech. In addition, the record reflects
mental health and non-exertional impairments which are the
focus of this appeal. However, since he does not contest the
ALJ's treatment of the medical records and opinions or
the ALJ's findings of the relevant conditions and
impairments, the Court need not further detail the medical
Marquez-Hernandez filed protective applications for DIB &
SSI on January 31, 2014. His applications were initially
denied on August 22, 2014. He then filed a written request
for a hearing on September 11, 2014. Prior to the hearing, he
amended the alleged onset date of his disability to November
22, 2013. The hearing was held on February 4, 2016, and Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez and a vocational expert (“VE”)
testified. Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a written
decision on March 2, 2016, denying benefits.
analyzed this case pursuant to the sequential five-step
inquiry. At step one, the ALJ found Mr. Marquez-Hernandez had
not worked or engaged in substantial gainful activity since
his amended alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found
Mr. Marquez-Hernandez had the following severe impairments:
impaired vision in his left eye, status-post two strokes;
obesity; hypertension; organic mental disorder; depression;
and polysubstance abuse. At step three, the ALJ found Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez's impairments did not meet or equal the
severity of a listed impairment in the appendix of the
regulations. In making this finding, the ALJ considered Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez's mental impairments, finding he had
mild restrictions in activities of daily living, moderate
difficulties in social functioning, and moderate difficulties
with concentration, persistence, or pace, noting, inter
alia, that Mr. Marquez-Hernandez reported he “does
not finish what he starts, has difficulty following written
instructions, and needs reminders of what to do.”
(#14 at 16). The ALJ concluded that Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez's mental impairments did not include at
least two areas of “marked” limitations.
Therefore, she found his “mental impairments, while
they are severe, do not involve such severe symptoms as to
satisfy the criteria for any appropriate listings.”
then assessed Mr. Marquez-Hernandez's Residual Functional
Capacity (“RFC”) and determined that:
[Mr. Marquez-Hernandez] has the residual functional capacity
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and
416.967(c) except he is limited to unskilled, SVP 1 or 2
work, can have minimal to no direct contact with the
public; should avoid unprotected heights and moving
machinery; can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and
crawl; can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; can frequently reach
overhead, in front, and laterally with the dominant right
upper extremity; and can perform no work requiring
frequent, fine communication due to slurred speech. He
can lift or carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds
occasionally. He could stand or walk with normal breaks for a
total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; sit with normal breaks
for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. He could perform
pushing and pulling motions with his upper and lower
extremities within the weight restrictions given except
pushing and pulling with his right dominant upper extremity
would be limited to frequent.
Id. at 17 (emphasis added). The ALJ then found, at
step four, that Mr. Marquez-Hernandez was unable to perform
past relevant work as a press operator.
five, based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found that
Mr. Marquez-Hernandez could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at
28-29. Specifically, the ALJ determined that Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez could work in occupations such as
production assembler, dry cleaner, and “marker”
(i.e., a price marker/ticket marker, or marking
clerk, see Dictionary of Occupational Titles No.
209.587-034). Id. at 29, 63. Given the ALJ's
step five determination, she concluded that Mr.
Marquez-Hernandez was not disabled as defined by the Social