United States District Court, D. Maine
RODNEY S. PAGE, II, Plaintiff
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION
C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff Rodney Page's application for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
Defendant, the Social Security Administration Acting
Commissioner, found that Plaintiff has severe impairments,
but retains the functional capacity to perform substantial
gainful activity. Defendant, therefore, denied
Plaintiff's request for disability benefits. Plaintiff
filed this action for judicial review of Defendant's
final administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
a review of the record, and after consideration of the
parties' arguments, I recommend the Court vacate the
administrative decision and remand for further proceedings.
Commissioner's final decision is the September 25, 2015,
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (ALJ
Decision, ECF No. 10-2.) The ALJ's decision tracks the
familiar five-step sequential evaluation process for
analyzing social security disability claims, 20 C.F.R. §
found that Plaintiff has severe, but non-listing-level
impairments consisting of degenerative disk disease,
osteoarthritis, history of right shoulder osteoarthritis,
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, bipolar disorder, anxiety,
learning disability, and fibromyalgia. (ALJ Decision
¶¶ 4 - 5.) The ALJ further found that, despite his
impairments, Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform a subset of medium exertion work, subject to
several physical limitations, and is further limited to a
subset of “simple” work that involves limited
change in work settings and routines, does not require
literacy, involves no more than 1 or 2 step instructions with
few concrete variables that are communicated orally, does not
involve working with the public, and does not involve more
than occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors.
(Id. ¶ 6.)
on the RFC finding and Plaintiff's vocational profile,
and based on testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff could perform substantial gainful
activity, including in the representative occupations of
launderer hand, industrial cleaner, housekeeping cleaner, and
linen grader. (Id. ¶ 11.) Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has not been disabled for the
period commencing with the alleged onset date, June 25, 2010,
and ending on the date of decision, September 25, 2015.
(Id. ¶ 12.)
must affirm the administrative decision provided the correct
legal standards were applied 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 evidence, but they are not
conclusive when derived by ignoring evidence, misapplying the
law, or judging matters entrusted to experts.”
Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999).
argues the ALJ's finding at step 3 - that he does not
meet a mental impairment listing - is not supported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ impermissibly
“invalidated” the results of an IQ test.
(Statement of Errors at 2 - 3.) Plaintiff also contends the
ALJ erred when she did not address whether Plaintiff's
impairment is medically equivalent to listing 12.05(C), even
if it does not meet the listing. (Id. at 3 - 7.) In
addition to challenging the step 3 finding, Plaintiff argues
the ALJ's RFC finding is flawed because substantial
evidence does not support the ALJ's assessment of
Plaintiff's carpal tunnel syndrome, or the ALJ's
finding that Plaintiff can perform substantial gainful
activity at the medium-exertion level. (Id. at 8 -
argues that he qualifies as disabled at step 3 because his
degree of impairment meets or equals listing 12.05(C).
According to Plaintiff, the ALJ's contrary finding is not
supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ
impermissibly judged matters entrusted to experts.
listings are so constructed that an individual with an
impairment(s) that meets or is equivalent in severity to the
criteria of a listing could not reasonably be expected to do
any gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1, § 12.00(A); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1525(a). “For a claimant to show that his
impairment matches a listing, it must meet all of the
specified medical criteria.” Sullivan v.
Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990). However, if a claimant
has an impairment identified in a listing, but does not meet
one or more of the criteria of the listing, the claimant may
still be found disabled at step 3 if he has “other
findings related to [his] impairment that are at least of
equal medical significance to the required criteria.”
20 C.F.R. § 404.1526(b)(1)(ii) (defining “medical
to amendments effective January 17, 2017,  and for purposes
of Plaintiff's claim, the relevant listing language
The structure of the listing for intellectual disability
(12.05) is different from that of the other mental disorders
listings. Listing 12.05 contains an introductory paragraph
with the diagnostic description for intellectual disability.
It also contains four sets of criteria (paragraphs A through
D). If your impairment satisfies the diagnostic description
in the introductory paragraph and any one of the four sets of
criteria, we will find that your impairment meets the
listing. Paragraphs A and B contain criteria that describe