United States District Court, D. Maine
MICHAEL DAVID DESROCHES, Plaintiff.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
JOHN H. RICH, III, Magistrate Judge.
This Social Security Disability ("SSD") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") appeal raises the question of whether the administrative law judge supportably found the plaintiff capable of performing work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. The plaintiff seeks remand on the basis that the administrative law judge erred in declining to fully credit a mental residual functional capacity ("RFC") opinion of treating psychiatrist Dylan McKenney, M.D., and in adopting a mental RFC opinion of agency nonexamining consultant David R. Houston, Ph.D., who did not review later-submitted records demonstrating worsening symptoms. See Itemized Statement of Errors Pursuant to Local Rule 16.3 Submitted by Plaintiff ("Statement of Errors") (ECF No. 8) at 2-5. I find no reversible error and, accordingly, affirm the commissioner's decision.
Pursuant to the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Goodermote v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 690 F.2d 5, 6 (1st Cir. 1982), the administrative law judge found, in relevant part, that the plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015, Finding 1, Record at 42; that he had severe impairments of an anxiety-related disorder, an affective disorder, and a history of alcohol use, Finding 3, id.; that he had the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: able to learn, perform, and carry out simple tasks with no interaction with the public, Finding 5, id. at 44; that, considering his age (39 years old, defined as a younger individual, on his alleged disability onset date, September 30, 2010), education (at least high school), work experience (transferability of skills immaterial), and RFC, there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform, Findings 7-10, id. at 48; and that he, therefore, had not been disabled from his alleged onset date of disability, September 30, 2010, through the date of the decision, March 4, 2013, Finding 11, id. at 49. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision, id. at 1-3, making the decision the final determination of the commissioner, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481; Dupuis v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 869 F.2d 622, 623 (1st Cir. 1989).
The standard of review of the commissioner's decision is whether the determination made is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Manso-Pizarro v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1996). In other words, the determination must be supported by such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion drawn. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Rodriguez v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981).
The administrative law judge reached Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process, at which stage the burden of proof shifts to the commissioner to show that a claimant can perform work other than his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987); Goodermote, 690 F.2d at 7. The record must contain substantial evidence in support of the commissioner's findings regarding the plaintiff's RFC to perform such other work. Rosado v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 807 F.2d 292, 294 (1st Cir. 1986).
A. Handling of McKenney Opinion
Dr. McKenney submitted a mental RFC opinion dated May 3, 2012, in which he assessed the plaintiff's ability to deal with the public, deal with work stresses, and relate predictably in social situations as "Poor or None." Record at 395-97. The form that he completed defined the phrase "Poor or None" as meaning "[n]o useful ability to function in this area." Id. at 395. He also indicated that the plaintiff had only a "Fair" capacity in a number of other areas, including relating to co-workers, interacting with supervisors, functioning independently, behaving in an emotionally stable manner, and demonstrating reliability. Id. at 395-97. The form defined the word "Fair" as meaning "[a]bility to function in this area is seriously limited, but not precluded." Id. at 395.
With respect to the assessed limitations on ability to relate to coworkers, deal with the public, interact with supervisors, deal with work stresses, and function independently, Dr. McKenney explained:
[The plaintiff] is extremely burdened with anxiety which produces symptoms of obsessional thoughts, compulsive behavior and dissociation. This is worsened by external stress and social stimulation.
Id. at 396. With respect to the assessed limitations on behaving in an emotionally stable manner, relating predictably in social situations, and demonstrating reliability, he explained: "Impressions are based on repeated clinical interview." Id. at 397. "Please see my medical documentation for further information." Id.
Dr. McKenney assessed the plaintiff's ability to understand, remember, and carry out job instructions ranging from complex to simple as "Good[, ]" but explained:
There are no cognitive limitations to impede job functioning except when in an anxious state [the plaintiff] will dissociate and not internalize new information. At baseline I have answered all of the above items ...