United States District Court, D. Maine
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION
C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Shawn Cooley's application for disability
insurance benefits under Title II and supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
Defendant, the Social Security Administration Commissioner,
found that Plaintiff has severe impairments, but retains the
functional capacity to perform substantial gainful activity.
Defendant, therefore, denied Plaintiff's request for
filed this action for judicial review of Defendant's
final administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Plaintiff argues that Defendant's assessment of
Plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity lacks
evidentiary support in the record, and thus Defendant's
determination that Plaintiff can engage in substantial
gainful activity also is unsupported by the record.
a review of the record, and after consideration of the
parties' arguments, I recommend the Court affirm the
Commissioner's final decision is the July 6, 2015,
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (ECF No.
9-2.) The ALJ's decision tracks the familiar
five-step sequential evaluation process for analyzing social
security disability claims, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
found that Plaintiff has severe, but non-listing-level
impairments, and that Plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work, subject to a number of
limitations. Additionally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
has the mental residual functional capacity to understand,
remember, and carry out simple tasks, provided the work is
“object oriented” and involves “only
occasional superficial work-related interactions.” (ALJ
Decision at 7, ¶ 5.)
assessment of Plaintiff's mental residual functional
capacity, the ALJ relied on the opinion of Leigh Haskell,
Ph.D., who reviewed the medical record for Disability
Determination Services and issued a report dated February 20,
2014. (Exs. B6A, B7A.) Dr. Haskell determined that Plaintiff
has a depressive disorder and an anxiety disorder that impact
his work capacity, but found that he “can carry out at
least simple tasks during a normal work schedule” and
“can not consistently persist at complex work
tasks.” (Ex. B7A, R. 261.) According to Dr. Haskell,
Plaintiff cannot interact with the public at work,
“would do better with independent work, ” but
“is able to interact adequately with supervisors and a
small group of coworkers.” (Id., R. 262.) Dr.
Haskell further found that Plaintiff “is able to adapt
to simple routine changes and make basic decisions.”
support of her assessment, Dr. Haskell cited the February 19,
2014, report of consultative examiner Roger Ginn, Ph.D. Dr.
Ginn, who conducted a psychological evaluation of Plaintiff
on February 18, 2014, stated that Plaintiff could
“handle mild work-related stress and focus and
concentrate, ” “if he did not have to deal with a
lot of people.” (Ex. B14F, R. 691 - 92, ECF No. 9-7.)
Dr. Ginn also concluded that Plaintiff would not “have
any difficulty understanding and carrying out job-related
gave “great weight” to Dr. Haskell's RFC
assessment, concluding that it was “consistent with Dr.
Ginn's report” and the longitudinal record. (ALJ
Decision, R. 25.) The ALJ also evaluated the longitudinal
medical record and Plaintiff's subjective complaints. The
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's statements regarding the
intensity, persistence and limiting effects of his symptoms
were not particularly credible. (Id., R. 26-27.)
hearing, the vocational expert testified that a person with
the ALJ's proposed RFC would be able to engage in
substantial gainful activity as a cleaner/housekeeper, final
inspector, buckle inspector, film touch-up inspector, dowel
inspector, stone setter, and compact assembler. The
vocational expert also testified that if the tasks were
limited to “occasional superficial work related
interactions, ” the jobs would still be available. (R.
182 - 83.)
must affirm the administrative decision provided the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and provided the decision
is supported by substantial evidence. This is so even if the
record contains evidence capable of supporting an alternative
outcome. Manso-Pizarro v. Sec'y of HHS, 76 F.3d
15, 16 (1st Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Rodriguez Pagan v.
Sec'y of HHS, 819 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1987).
Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a finding. Richardson v.
Perales,402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Rodriguez v.
Sec'y of HHS, 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981).
“The ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive when
supported by substantial ...