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Mulcahey v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 28, 2015

JANICE MULCAHEY, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

MEMORANDUM DECISION [1]

JOHN H. RICH, III, Magistrate Judge.

This Social Security Disability ("SSD") appeal challenges the administrative law judge's conclusion that the plaintiff's medically determinable impairments did not meet or medically equal the criteria of Paragraph 12.04 in Appendix 1 to 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P ("Listing 12.04") or cause limitations on her physical ability to perform work-related activities.[2] I affirm the commissioner's decision.

In accordance with the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; 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 suffered from Raynaud's syndrome and depression, impairments that were severe but which, considered separately or in combination, did not meet or medically equal the criteria of any impairment in the Listings, Findings 3-4, Record at 13-14; that she had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of work except that she could understand, remember, and carry out only simple repetitive instructions and needed to avoid cold temperatures, Finding 5, id. at 15; that she was unable to perform any past relevant work, Finding 6, id. at 17; that, given her age (58 on the alleged date of onset of disability, March 10, 2010), at least high school education, work experience, and RFC, use of the Medical-Vocational Rules in Appendix 2 to 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P as a framework for decision-making led to the conclusion that there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that the plaintiff could perform, Findings 7-10, id.; and that, therefore, the plaintiff had not been under a disability, as that term is defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from the alleged date of onset of disability through the date of the decision, August 27, 2013, Finding 11, id. at 18. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision, id. at 1-3, making it the final determination of the commissioner, 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; 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); 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 her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987); Goodermote, 690 F.2d at 7. However, the plaintiff's appeal concerns only Step 3 of the sequential evaluation process. At Step 3, a claimant bears the burden of proving that her impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals a listing. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d); Dudley v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 816 F.2d 792, 793 (1st Cir. 1987). To meet a listing, the claimant's impairment(s) must satisfy all criteria of that listing, including required objective medical findings. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(c)(3). To equal a listing, the claimant's impairment(s) must be "at least equal in severity and duration to the criteria of any listed impairment." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1526(a).

I. Discussion

A. Mental RFC

Listing 12.04 deals with the mental impairment of affective disorders. To meet the listing, a claimant must show that the requirements in both subparts A and B of the listing, or the requirements in subpart C of the listing. Subpart A requires

Medically documented persistence, either continuous or intermittent, of one of the following:
1. Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four of the following:
a. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; or
b. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or
c. Sleep disturbance; or
d. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or
e. Decreased energy; or
f. Feelings of guilt or ...

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