United States District Court, D. Maine
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION
C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits
under Title II (DIB) and supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI (SSI) 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
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 February 18, 2016,
decision of the Administrative Law Judge. (ALJ Decision, ECF
No. 7-2.) 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 consisting of degenerative disk disease, anxiety
disorder, affective disorder, personality disorder, and
substance abuse. (Id. ¶¶ 3 - 4.) The ALJ
further found that, despite her impairments, Plaintiff has
the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
medium-exertion work that involves simple, routine tasks,
provided the work requires no more than occasional stooping
and does not involve any interaction with the public.
(Id. ¶ 5.) Based on the RFC finding,
Plaintiff's vocational profile, and the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is able
to perform substantial gainful activity existing in the
national economy, including the representative occupations of
laundry folder, photocopy machine operator, and assembler of
small parts,  and that Plaintiff, therefore, was not
under a disability during the period between October 9, 2011,
and the date of the ALJ's decision. (Id.
¶¶ 6 - 7.)
must affirm the administrative decision provided the decision
is based on the correct legal standards and is supported by
substantial evidence, 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 that the Court should remand her DIB and SSI claims
for further proceedings because the ALJ failed to consider
and weigh properly a Veteran's Administration (VA)
disability rating decision and VA treating source opinions.
(Statement of Errors, ECF No. 11.) In her Statement of
Errors, Plaintiff specifically challenges the ALJ's
decision regarding the extent of Plaintiff's mental
The ALJ's Assessment of Opinion Evidence
30, 2014, as part of the initial review of Plaintiff's
disability claim by Disability Determination Services, Peter
Allen, Ph.D., opined that Plaintiff has the RFC for simple
work. He determined that despite variable concentration with
routine tasks over a normal workday and workweek, and despite
social limitations that preclude work with the public,
Plaintiff can function within a small group and tolerate
normal supervision, but would do best in a relatively
solitary workstation. (Ex. 2A, R. 89 - 90, ECF No. 7-3.)
December 30, 2014, in connection with Disability
Determination Services' reconsideration of
Plaintiff's claim, Lewis Lester, Ph.D., provided a
similar assessment. (Ex. 8A, ECF No. 7-3.) According to Dr.
Lester, Plaintiff can understand and remember simple and
moderately detailed tasks and procedures, can be reliable and
sustain two-hour periods performing simple tasks at a
consistent pace without significant interruption from mental
symptoms over a normal workday and workweek, cannot interact
with the public, can interact with coworkers and supervisors
in a normal setting, and can adapt to routine changes and
make basic decisions. (R. 142 - 143.)
the evidence considered by Drs. Allen and Lester was the
report of the July 10, 2014, consultative examination
provided by James Moran, Ed.D. (Ex. 26F, ECF No. 7-8.) ...