United States District Court, D. Maine
MEMORANDUM DECISION 
H. RICH III, Magistrate Judge.
Social Security Disability ("SSD") appeal raises
the question of whether the administrative law judge
supportably found the plaintiff capable of performing past
relevant work as a delivery driver. The plaintiff seeks
remand on the bases that the administrative law judge erred
in weighing the medical opinion evidence and in assessing his
credibility. See Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
("Statement of Errors") (ECF No. 15-1), attached to
Fact Sheet for Social Security Appeals: Plaintiff (ECF No.
15), at 2-7. I affirm the commissioner's decision.
to the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20
C.F.R. Â§ 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 met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through December 31, 2017, Finding 1, Record at
11; that he had a severe impairment of Addison's disease,
Finding 3, id.; that he retained the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full
range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1567(c),
Finding 5, id. at 13; that he was capable of
performing past relevant work as a delivery driver, which did
not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by his RFC, Finding 6, id. at 14; and that
he, therefore, had not been disabled from October 15, 2012,
his alleged onset date of disability, through the date of the
decision, November 25, 2014, Finding 7, id. at 15.
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. Â§ 404.981;
Dupuis v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 869
F.2d 622, 623 (1st Cir. 1989).
standard of review of the commissioner's decision is
whether the determination made is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. Â§ 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).
administrative law judge reached Step 4 of the sequential
evaluation process, at which stage the claimant bears the
burden of proving inability to return to past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1520(f); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 146 n.5 (1987). At this step, the commissioner must make
findings of the plaintiff's RFC and the physical and
mental demands of past work and determine whether the
plaintiff's RFC would permit performance of that work. 20
C.F.R. Â§ 404.1520(f); Social Security Ruling 82-62 ("SSR
82-62"), reprinted in West's Social Security
Reporting Service Rulings 1975-1982, at 813.
Weighing of Medical Opinions
administrative law judge explained that, in assessing the
plaintiff's RFC, she gave "great weight" to the
opinions of agency nonexamining consultants J.H. Hall, M.D.,
and Lawrence P. Johnson, M.D., and treating physician S.
Thomas Bigos, M.D., because they were "supported by
substantial evidence[, ]" and "[l]ittle
weight" to the opinions of agency examining consultant
Robert N. Phelps Jr., M.D., and treating nurse practitioner
Stacia K. St. John, N.P., because "the medical evidence
d[id] not support their assessments of the [plaintiff's]
limitations." Record at 14 (citations omitted); see
also id. at 59-61 (Hall), 71-73 (Johnson), 519-23
(Phelps), 595-96 (Bigos), 607-10 (St. John).
report dated February 13, 2014, Dr. Phelps stated, inter
alia, that the plaintiff's ability to lift and carry
occasionally was markedly limited, his ability to lift and
carry frequently was severely limited, his ability to stand
or walk was moderately to markedly limited, he required a
hand-held assistive device to ambulate, his ability to push
and/or pull was markedly limited at the right shoulder and
left lower extremity and mildly limited at the right lower
extremity, and he had no ability to bend, climb, balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or reach on the right. See
id. at 522-23.
Phelps explained that those limitations were based on (i)
mildly limited cervical extension, (ii) the plaintiff's
reported history of right shoulder dislocation with ongoing
episodes of subluxing or possibly dislocation, together with
a finding of snapping on examination, (iii) the
plaintiff's reported history of increased back pain,
together with findings on examination of marked thoracic
kyphosis and limited side bending and extension, (iv) the
plaintiff's reported history of bilateral hip pain,
popping right hip, and increased pain with long strides and
abduction, together with findings on examination of increased
left hip pain on strength testing and right hip pain on full
flexion, and (v) the plaintiff's reported history of left
knee injury, pain, swelling, the use of a knee support and
cane, and difficulties driving, walking on uneven ground and
stair climbing, together with findings on examination of left
knee pain on straight leg raising, left thigh and calf
atrophy, and a mild varus deformity. See id. at 523.
physical RFC opinion dated September 19, 2014, St. John
indicated, inter alia, that the plaintiff could only
occasionally lift/carry 10 pounds or less and rarely
lift/carry 15 pounds or more, needed to lie down or recline
for about three hours of an eight-hour workday due to fatigue
and stress, could sit for only about five hours and
stand/walk for only about an hour in an eighthour workday,
would need daily unscheduled breaks, and frequently
experienced pain and/or stress severe enough to interfere
with his attention and concentration. See id. at
608-09. She stated that the plaintiff was diagnosed with
Addison's disease, hypothyroidism, anemia, gastritis, and
gastroparesis, and had symptoms of nausea, dizziness,
fatigue, weakness, and pain in the knees, hips, and back.
See id. at 607.
Hall and Johnson, in physical RFC assessments dated February
20, 2014, and April 17, 2014, respectively, each found the
plaintiff capable of lifting/carrying up to 50 pounds
occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, standing and/or
walking for about six hours in an eighthour workday, and
sitting for about six hours in an eight-hour workday. See
id. at 60, 72. They indicated that, in light of the
plaintiff's Addison's disease, it would be best to
avoid heavy lifting, but his knee complaints did not seem
limiting in that he was able to do cardio and weight
exercise. See id. They noted that his hypothyroidism
was not limiting, that no hip impairment was documented, and
that he biked and jogged. See id. at 60, 73. They
disagreed with the limitations set forth by Dr. Phelps,
explaining that his opinion relied heavily on the
plaintiff's subjective report of symptoms and
limitations, was not supported by the totality of the
evidence, and was "an overestimate of the severity of
the [plaintiff's] restrictions/limitations and based only
on a snapshot of [his] functioning." Id. at 61,
note dated July 31, 2014, Dr. Bigos, the plaintiff's
treating endocrinologist, stated that he had declined to fill
out Social Security disability paperwork for the plaintiff,
explaining that "his endocrine diagnoses would not place
him in a permanently disabled category since it would be
expected that compliance with a replacement program of
endocrine therapy would restore him to both a euthyroid and
euadrenal state in which case there would only be very
exceptional occupations for which he would be considered
disabled." Id. at 595. He provided, as examples
of "types of work that an endocrinologically restored
person would be able to perform[, ]" clerical work,
manual labor, truck driving, and working as a mail carrier,
teacher, or other professional. Id. at 595-96.
plaintiff acknowledges that St. John, a nurse practitioner,
is not an acceptable medical source as defined by Social
Security regulations. See Statement of Errors at 3;
see also, e.g., 20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1527(a)(2) (defining
"medical opinions" as "statements from
physicians and psychologists or other acceptable medical
sources that reflect judgments about the nature and severity
of your impairment(s), including your symptoms, diagnosis and
prognosis, what you can still do despite impairment(s), and
your physical or ...