United States District Court, D. Maine
MEMORANDUM DECISION 
H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.
This Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) appeal
raises the question of whether the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) 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 ALJ (i) ignored material evidence, (ii) failed to
find that his impairments met the criteria of sections 12.04,
12.06, and 12.08 of Appendix 1 to 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P (“the Listings”), (iii) mischaracterized the
evidence, (iv) disregarded evidence from
“nonacceptable” medical sources, and (v)
erroneously relied on the opinions of agency nonexamining
consultants. See Plaintiff's Itemized Statement
of Errors (“Statement of Errors”) (ECF No. 12) at
1. I conclude that remand is warranted based on the ALJ's
failure to acknowledge and resolve a material evidentiary
conflict regarding the plaintiff's ability to handle work
stress. Accordingly, I vacate the commissioner's decision
and remand this case for further proceedings consistent
herewith. I need not and do not reach the plaintiff's
remaining points of error.
to the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20
C.F.R. § 416.920; Goodermote v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 690 F.2d 5, 6 (1st Cir. 1982), the
ALJ found, in relevant part, that the plaintiff had severe
impairments of anxiety, depression with bipolar disorder, and
personality disorder, Finding 2, Record at 40; that he had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but
with the following nonexertional limitations: he was limited
to performing simple, routine, competitive, repetitive,
non-abstract tasks on a sustained basis over a normal
eight-hour workday and in a stable environment, with no more
than simple decision-making, no close interpersonal
interactions with supervisors or coworkers, no teamwork, no
interaction with the public, and no performance of complex
and detailed tasks, Finding 4, id. at 42; that,
considering his age (50 years old, defined as an individual
closely approaching advanced age, on the date his application
was filed, April 25, 2013), education (at least high school), work
experience (transferability of skills immaterial), and RFC,
there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy that he could perform, Findings 6-9,
id. at 47; and that he, therefore, had not been
disabled from April 25, 2013, through the date of the
decision, June 25, 2015, Finding 10, id. at 48. 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.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 869 F.2d 622,
623 (1st Cir. 1989).
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.
Sec'y 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. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981).
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.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 807 F.2d 292,
294 (1st Cir. 1986).
August 14, 2013, agency examining consultant Margaret A.
Morrison, Ph.D., evaluated the plaintiff, diagnosing him with
social phobia, major depression, and avoidant personality
disorder and stating, in relevant part:
The following statement is offered regarding [the
plaintiff's] ability to perform employment activities.
[He] should be able to follow work rules. He appears to
struggle with dealing with relating to others appropriately.
He appears capable of using appropriate gross judgment. He
does not appear capable of dealing with work stressors. He
should be able to function independently. Difficulties with
attention, concentration, persistence, pace, and memory
[were] not observed. He appears capable of maintaining
personal appearance. He may have some difficulties behaving
in an emotionally stable manner. He demonstrated adequate
social skills during today's evaluation. He is reporting
that he has not worked in many years, in part because he was
taking care of his dying parents but predominantly because of
Record at 521-22.
agency nonexamining psychological consultants, Lewis F.
Lester, Ph.D., and Brian Stahl, Ph.D., subsequently reviewed
the then-available record, including the Morrison report.
See id. at 97-103 (initial review by Dr.
Lester dated August 30, 2013), 112-19 (reconsideration review
by Dr. Stahl dated April 1, 2014). Both made clear that they
rejected Dr. Morrison's conclusion that the plaintiff did
“not appear capable of dealing with work stressors[,
Opinion that [the plaintiff] does not appear capable of
dealing with work stressors reflects a very severe limitation
that is not supported by other evidence. [The
plaintiff's] limited capacity for stress was considered
in the MRFC [mental RFC].
Id. at 103, 119. They described the Morrison
opinion, in relevant part, as “an overestimate of the
severity of the [plaintiff's] restrictions/limitations
and based only on a snapshot of [his] functioning.”
stated, in relevant part:
Even though [Dr. Morrison] noted that [the plaintiff] might
have problems with work stress and relating to others, she
concluded that [he] ...