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Parent v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 26, 2016

JASON PAUL PARENT, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM DECISION [1]

          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge

         This Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) appeal raises the questions of whether the administrative law judge based his decision on erroneous medical testimony and whether he incorrectly evaluated the opinion of an evaluating medical source. I affirm the commissioner's decision.

         In accordance with the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. § 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 suffered from anxiety-related disorder/anxiety disorder NOS (not otherwise specified), and personality disorder/personality disorder NOS, impairments that were severe but which, considered separately or in combination, did not meet or medically equal the criteria of any impairment listed in Appendix 1 to 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P (the “Listings”), Findings 2-3, Record at 17-18; that he had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, except that he could understand, remember, and carry out semi-complex instructions, use judgment in making semi-complex work-related decisions, interact occasionally and appropriately with coworkers, supervisors, and usual work settings not involving the public, and adapt to occasional changes in the ordinary work setting, Finding 4, id. at 20; that he had no past relevant work, Finding 5, id. at 24; that, considering his age (29 years old on the date his application was filed, November 17, 2011), education (at least high school), and RFC, there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform, Findings 6-9, id.; and that he, therefore, had not been disabled, as that term is defined in the Social Security Act, from November 17, 2011, through the date of the decision, February 26, 2014, Finding 10, id. at 25. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision, id. at 1-4, making the decision the final determination of the commissioner, 20 C.F.R. § 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. § 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. § 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).

         I. Discussion

         The plaintiff contends that the administrative law judge impermissibly relied upon the testimony at the hearing of a medical expert, James Claiborn, Ph.D., because that testimony was “erroneous and contrary to Social Security policy” and resulted from prompting by the administrative law judge. Itemized Statement of Errors Pursuant to Local Rule 16.3 Submitted by Plaintiff (“Itemized Statement”) (ECF No. 8) at 3-4. He asserts that the administrative law judge's reading to Dr. Claiborn his testimony “from another, unidentified hearing[] clearly indicat[es] that the ALJ had prejudged the issue and was coaching the ME.” Id. at 3.

         The following testimony by Dr. Claiborn, in response to questioning by the administrative law judge, is at issue:

Q Do you believe [the plaintiff] has the ability on a sustained competitive basis to understand, remember, and carry out semi-complex instructions?
A I believe so, yes.
Q Use judgment and make semi-complex work related decision?
A Yes.
Q Respond appropriately to co-workers, supervisors and usual work situations not involving the public?
A I think he's prone to being a difficult person to interact with so that he's going to have trouble with authority figures particularly. He's not going to respond well to being told what to do. And if we get into an issue where is this something that he's capable of doing or prone to do even though it's responsibility, it's about ability. I think ...

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