United States District Court, D. Maine
PATRICIA ANN EDGECOMB, Plaintiff.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
JOHN C. NIVISON, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Patricia Edgecomb applied for supplemental security income benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Defendant, the Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner, found that Plaintiff has severe impairments, but that she retains the functional capacity to perform substantial gainful activity. Defendant, therefore, denied Plaintiff's request for disability benefits.
As explained below, following a review of the record, and after consideration of the parties' written and oral arguments, the recommendation is that the Court affirm the administrative decision.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE FINDINGS
Defendant's final administrative decision tracks the familiar five-step sequential evaluation process for analyzing social security disability claims, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. (ALJ Decision, ECF No. 9-2.) For purposes of Plaintiff's Title II claim, Plaintiff had insured status through December 31, 2013.
At step 1 of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity beginning April 10, 2010, the date of alleged onset of disability. At step 2, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has one severe impairment, early osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees. The ALJ concluded at step 3 that Plaintiff's impairment does not meet or equal any listing in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, Appendix 1 to 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P.
Prior to further evaluation at steps 4 and 5, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC). Relevant to Plaintiff's Statement of Errors,  the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the capacity to perform light work subject to a six-hour limitation on sitting and a four-hour limitation on standing and walking during an eight-hour workday. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff must never climb ladders, but may occasionally climb stairs; can frequently balance and stoop; and is limited to occasional kneeling and crouching.
At step 4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's limitations precluded past relevant work. Using section 202.18 of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. § Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, as a framework for decision-making at step 5, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could engage in other substantial gainful employment. The ALJ, therefore, concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act for the period commencing April 10, 2010, through the date of the decision.
A. Standard of Review
The Court must affirm the administrative decision provided that the decision is based on the correct legal standard and is supported by substantial evidence, even if the record contains evidence that could support an alternative outcome. Manso-Pizarro v. Sec'y of HHS, 76 F.3d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Rodriguez Pagan v. Sec'y of HHS, 819 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1987). Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a finding. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Rodriguez v. Sec'y of HHS, 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981). "The ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive when supported by substantial evidence, but they are not conclusive when derived by ignoring evidence, misapplying the law, or judging matters entrusted to experts." Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999).
1. That the ALJ erred when he concluded that Plaintiff's primary care provider, Nurse Practitioner (NP) Christopher Walker, is not a medical source capable of supplying a diagnosis, and when he gave little weight to NP Walker's ...