United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER AFFIRMING THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
United States Magistrate Judge filed with the Court on
October 15, 2017 his Recommended Decision. Report and
Recommended Decision (ECF No. 23). The Plaintiff filed
his objections to the Recommended Decision on October 30,
2017 (ECF No. 24). I have reviewed and considered the
Magistrate Judge's Recommended Decision, together with
the entire record; I have made a de novo determination of all
matters adjudicated by the Magistrate Judge's Recommended
Decision; and I concur with the recommendations of the United
States Magistrate Judge for the reasons set forth in his
Recommended Decision, and determine that no further
proceeding is necessary. The plaintiff's objections largely
reiterate the arguments the Magistrate Judge addressed and
rejected, but I offer the following additional discussion to
supplement his analysis.
the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 421(h), the plain text
of the statute and the weight of authority indicate that an
ALJ under subsection (d), unlike the determinations of other
actors under other subsections, need not always order an
expert psychological assessment if the evidence is sufficient
for the ALJ to make a disability determination. See
Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 433 (3d Cir. 1999)
(“Because 42 U.S.C. § 421(d) . . . is excluded
from § 421(h)'s purview, an ALJ is not required to
employ the assistance of a qualified psychiatrist or
psychologist in making an initial determination of mental
impairment”); Sneed v. Barnhart, 214 Fed.Appx.
883, 886 (11th Cir. 2006) (casting doubt on earlier decisions
requiring ALJ's to seek psychiatric consultations, in
light of the Third Circuit's analysis in
Plummer) (unpublished); Struthers v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 181 F.3d 104 (6th Cir. 1999); Andrade
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 985 F.2d
1045, 1050 (10th Cir. 1993) (noting that ALJ has no absolute
duty to seek expert psychological assessment and instead
reviewing for abuse of discretion).
district court cases that remanded the matter to the ALJ out
of an abundance of caution on their unique facts do not
require a contrary result on these facts. See e.g. Brown
v. Soc. Sec. Admin. Comm'r, No. 1:10-CV-00166-JAW,
2011 WL 1326862, at *4 (D. Me. Apr. 5, 2011), report and
recommendation adopted sub nom. Brown v. Soc. Sec. Admin.
Com'r, No. 1:10-CV-00166-JAW, 2011 WL 1557917 (D.
Me. Apr. 25, 2011) (declining to construe §421(h) in
favor of ALJ discretion “in this particular case”
but noting that “the Commissioner did not actually
mount an argument addressed to § 421(h)”).
the ALJ's alleged “substitut[ion of] his own views
for uncontroverted medical opinion, ” it is true that
the ALJ is “not qualified to interpret raw medical data
in functional terms.” See Nguyen v. Chater,
172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999). “Of course, where the
medical evidence shows relatively little physical impairment,
an ALJ permissibly can render a commonsense judgment about
functional capacity even without a physician's
assessment.” Manso-Pizarro v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 17 (1st Cir. 1996).
Although the line between commonsense judgment and medical
conclusion is not always sharp, the ALJ's conclusion in
this case was the former. The ALJ gave plentiful reasons for
discounting Dr. Newcomb's opinion that Mr. Chretien's
severe level of impairment extended back to 2011. There was
no corroborating evidence in the record to support this
asserted 2011 onset date for severe impairment. The ALJ
correctly observed that virtually every indication in the
record before 2014 contained estimations by his medical
providers and himself that were inconsistent with severe
depression. “[F]rom a commonsense point of view, there
is sufficient evidence in the record to provide support for
the ALJ's determination that” Mr. Chretien's
depression was non-severe for disability purposes prior to
December 2013. See Stephens v. Barnhart, 50
Fed.Appx. 7, 10-11 (1st Cir. 2002) (unpublished).
the ALJ did not err by discounting Dr. Newcomb's
conclusion about the start date of Mr. Chretien's more
severe impairment, and the ALJ did not abuse his discretion
in declining to seek an independent psychological review and
making his own commonsense determination of non-severity.
is therefore ORDERED that the Recommended Decision of the
Magistrate Judge is hereby AFFIRMED.
is further ORDERED that the Commissioner's final decision
be and hereby is AFFIRMED.
 Having reviewed the memoranda, the
Court concludes that an oral argument is not necessary.
Accordingly, the Court denies Mr. Chretien's motion for