United States District Court, D. Maine
BRETTEN J. KAHN, Plaintiff
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff Bretten J. Kahn'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 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 to obtain judicial review of
Defendant's final administrative decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
a review of the record, and after consideration of the
parties' arguments, I recommend the Court affirm the
Commissioner's final decision is the April 20, 2016,
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (ECF No. 9-2,
PageID ## 38 - 48.) 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 a severe, but non-listing-level
impairment consisting of anxiety disorder, and that
Plaintiff, despite his impairment, retains the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of work at
all levels of exertion provided the work does not involve
interaction with the public and does not require more than
occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors.
(Id. ¶¶ 3 - 5.) Consistent with the
findings, the ALJ found that Plaintiff can no longer perform
past relevant work as a home care attendant. (Id.
on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined
that a person with Plaintiff's RFC, age, and vocational
background would be able to engage in substantial gainful
activity in other occupations, including the representative
occupations of janitor, kitchen helper, and packager.
(Id. ¶¶ 7 - 10.) Accordingly, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability during
the relevant time period. (Id. ¶ 11.)
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 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 erred because he (1) improperly evaluated
Plaintiff's subjective report of symptoms, and (2)
afforded minimal weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's
treating therapist and substantial weight to the opinion of a
non-examining psychological consultant. (Statement of Errors,
ECF No. 13.) Through his arguments, Plaintiff challenges the
ALJ's RFC determination, which is made at a stage of the
sequential evaluation process at which Plaintiff retains the
burden to demonstrate his incapacity to perform substantial
gainful activity. Rodriguez v. Sec'y of HHS, 923
F.2d 840 (1st Cir. 1990); Roberts v. Barnhart, 67 F.
App'x 621, 622 (1st Cir. 2003) (per curiam).
ALJ's consideration of Plaintiff's
contends the ALJ did not properly evaluate certain statements
Plaintiff made regarding the degree of his limitation. As
part of the RFC assessment, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's
subjective report of symptoms pursuant to a two-step process.
(R. 18 - 20, ECF No. 9-2, PageID ## 43 - 45.) Initially, the
ALJ considered whether the objective medical evidence of
record disclosed medically determinable impairments that
reasonably could cause the degree of limitation reported by
Plaintiff. (R. 19.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's
medically determinable impairment, anxiety, could result in
the limitation alleged by Plaintiff, but that the objective
medical record did not independently substantiate the degree
of limitation Plaintiff alleged. (R. 19: “Overall, the
records fail to reveal any clinical signs or objective
findings to support his allegations of significant functional
limitations.”) The ALJ, therefore, proceeded to the
second step of the evaluation process.
second step, the ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's statements
relevant to his anxiety symptoms. In particular, the ALJ
considered Plaintiff's reports that he did not like to go
out in public and thus typically spends most of the day
attending to the home and playing computer games, that he has
no real world friends other than his fiancé,
that he sometimes plays computer games with online friends
throughout the evening and well into the morning, that he was
able to travel by public air transportation, that his travels
included a trip to Disney ...