United States District Court, D. Maine
TROY E. LAMOREAU, Plaintiff
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant
MEMORANDUM DECISION 
H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.
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 bases that the administrative
law judge (i) made a mental residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) determination unsupported by substantial
evidence, (ii) improperly rejected the opinion of treating
counselor Megan Bowdich, L.C.P.C., (iii) provided no adequate
reason for rejecting a social limitation assessed by agency
nonexamining consultants Brian Stahl, Ph.D., and Mary A.
Burkhart, Ph.D., and (iv) erred in evaluating the
plaintiff's credibility. See Itemized Statement
of Errors Pursuant to Local Rule 16.3 Submitted by Plaintiff
(“Statement of Errors”) (ECF No. 8) at 2-8. I
conclude that the mental RFC determination is unsupported by
substantial evidence, in part because of the administrative
law judge's handling of the Burkhart and Stahl opinions.
Accordingly, I remand this case for further proceedings
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 September 30,
2012, Finding 1, Record at 14; that he had severe impairments
of depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), and schizotypal personality features,
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: he could understand,
remember, and carry out simple, repetitive instructions and
persist at that level of complexity for eight hours a day,
five days a week consistently, needed to avoid interaction
with the general public, but could interact appropriately
with coworkers and supervisors, and could adapt to routine
changes in the work setting, Finding 5, id. at 16;
that, considering his age (32 years old, defined as a younger
individual, on his original alleged disability onset date,
December 31, 2004), education (limited), 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 21-22;
and that he, therefore, had not been disabled from April 5,
2011, his amended alleged disability onset date, through the
date of the decision, March 27, 2015, Finding 11,
id. at 22-23. 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.
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).
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).
record contains four expert opinions bearing on the
plaintiff's mental RFC. Based on a February 4, 2013,
examination, agency examining consultant Edward Quinn, Ph.D.,
diagnosed the plaintiff with panic disorder with agoraphobia,
generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and major depression,
recurrent, moderate. See Record at 440. He
[The plaintiff] should be able to follow work rules. He may
have some difficulties at times interacting with others
because of anxiety. He did not appear to have difficulties
with judgment. He should be able to deal with some stressors.
He should be able to function independently. He may have some
issues with attention and concentration because of anxiety.
Memory appears to be intact. He generally appears capable of
completing job tasks. However, in a situation where he is
with a group of people he may have increased problems. He may
have increased problems with stressful jobs. He may have
difficulties with complex job instructions at times. He
demonstrates good social skills.
Id. at 439-40.
February 21, 2013, opinion, Dr. Burkhart found that the
plaintiff had a severe anxiety disorder impairment and a
nonsevere affective disorder impairment. See id. at
60. With the benefit of review of the Quinn opinion, which
she indicated she gave great weight, see id. at 61,
she concluded that the plaintiff had no limitations in
understanding and memory, sustained concentration and
persistence, or adaptation, but did have social interaction
limitations, see id. at 62. She deemed him
“able to interact with a few coworkers and supervisors,
but due to reported anxiety no frequent public
contact.” Id. at 62. She explained:
“[The plaintiff] goes to the store weekly. He presents
with good social skills.” Id.
July 17, 2013, opinion, Dr. Stahl concurred that the
plaintiff had a severe anxiety disorder impairment and
nonsevere affective disorder impairment. See id. at
81. Like Dr. Burkhart, he indicated that he gave the Quinn
opinion great weight. See id. at 83. However, while
he found that the plaintiff had no limitations in
understanding and memory, he indicated that he had
limitations in all other categories of mental functioning.
See id. at 83-85. With respect to social
functioning, his finding was nearly identical to that of Dr.
Burkhart: that the plaintiff was “able to interact with
a few coworkers and supervisors, but due to reported anxiety
no frequent public contact.” Id. at 84. He
explained that the plaintiff “goes to the store”
and “presents with good social skills at the CE
[consultative examination].” Id.
in a February 18, 2015, opinion, treating counselor Bowdich
indicated that the plaintiff had no useful ability to
function in all but one of 18 work capacities, including the
abilities to relate to co-workers and deal with the public.
See id. at 874-876.
and June 2014, on referral from Bowdich, the plaintiff
underwent a psychological evaluation by Aaron Blanchette,
Psy.D. See Id. at 601-10. With the benefit of a
clinical interview, review of records, and testing, Dr.
Blanchette diagnosed him with chronic PTSD, dysthymic
disorder, a brief psychotic disorder, in remission, and
schizotypal personality features. See id. at 603,
Blanchette described the plaintiff as “a very anxious
individual, especially in public or around ...