United States District Court, D. Maine
MEMORANDUM DECISION 
H. RICH III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Social Security Disability (“SSD”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) appeal
raises the question of whether the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) supportably found that the plaintiff did
not have a severe impairment. The plaintiff seeks remand on
the basis that the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for
discounting her treating physician's medical opinions.
See Plaintiff's Itemized Statement of Errors
(“Statement of Errors”) (ECF No. 15) at 4-10. I
find no error and, accordingly, affirm the commissioner's
decision. I need not and do not address the plaintiff's
separate challenge to the ALJ's alternative Step 5
finding. See id. at 10-15.
to the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 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 met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through June 30, 2018, Finding 1, Record at 19;
that she had the medically determinable impairments of
obesity (status post gastric bypass), degenerative joint
disease of the knees, degenerative joint disease of the right
shoulder, iron deficiency, a history of sarcoidosis, a
history of alcohol abuse, depressive disorder, and anxiety
disorder, Finding 3, id. at 20; that those
impairments, considered singly and in combination, did not,
or were not expected to, significantly limit her ability to
perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive
months, as a result of which she had no severe impairment or
combination of impairments, Finding 4, id.; and that
she, therefore, had not been disabled from November 27, 2013,
her alleged onset date of disability, through the date of the
decision, January 29, 2016, Finding 6, id. at 25.
The Appeals Council declined to review the decision,
id. at 1-3, making the decision the final
determination of the commissioner, 20 C.F.R. §§
404.981, 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. §§ 405(g), 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 2 of the sequential evaluation process. Although
a claimant bears the burden of proof at Step 2, it is a
de minimis burden, designed to do no more than
screen out groundless claims. McDonald v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 795 F.2d 1118, 1124 (1st Cir.
1986). When a claimant produces evidence of an impairment,
the commissioner may make a determination of non-disability
at Step 2 only when the medical evidence “establishes
only a slight abnormality or [a] combination of slight
abnormalities which would have no more than a minimal effect
on an individual's ability to work even if the
individual's age, education, or work experience were
specifically considered.” Id. (quoting Social
Security Ruling 85-28 (“SSR 85-28”)).
explained that he had considered the degree to which the
plaintiff's alleged symptoms could “reasonably be
accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence
and other evidence, ” as well as opinion evidence, in
deeming the plaintiff's impairments nonsevere. Record at
20. He deemed her “alleged limitations in sitting,
standing, walking, lifting, carrying, attention,
concentration, focusing, memory, need to lie down, dizziness,
need for frequent absences and inability to leave the home .
. . not substantiated by competent medical evidence to the
degree alleged.” Id. at 22.
observed that, although imaging studies had “revealed
degenerative joint disease in the bilateral knees and right
shoulder[, ]” there was “no evidence of
persistent limited range of motion, muscle spasms, atrophy,
or neurological deficits[, ]” and the plaintiff had
received “minimal, if any, treatment[, ]” not
requiring “injections, physical therapy, chiropractic
manipulation, or a surgical consult.” Id. He
With regard to [the plaintiff's] mental impairments,
mental status examinations . . . have been within normal
limits. While the [plaintiff] did engage in a partial
hospitalization program in August 2014, she attended only
five of the recommended twelve to fifteen sessions and was
discharged due to noncompliance. The alleged frequency,
severity, and duration of [her] mood disorder, anxiety
disorder and panic attacks are not supported by the weight of
the medical evidence to the degree alleged.
Id. at 23 (citations omitted).
noted that the plaintiff's treating physician, Elisabeth
DelPrete, D.O., had submitted both physical and mental
medical source statements, which he summarized as follows:
In a [Physical] Medical Source Statement dated May 16, 2014,
[Dr. DelPrete] maintained that the [plaintiff] could
occasionally and frequently lift and carry less than 10
pounds, never climb stairs, ramps, ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, never kneel, crouch, crawl or stoop and
occasionally balance, but [did] not [assess] limitations in
sitting, standing, walking, [or] pushing/pulling.
In a [Mental] Medical Source Statement dated May 16, 2014,
[Dr. DelPrete] maintained that the [plaintiff] would have
seriously limiting but not precluded abilities in setting
realistic goals or making plans independently, interacting
appropriately with the general public, and maintaining
socially appropriate behavior, but would be unable to
maintain appropriate relationships with co-workers and
supervisors. Dr. DelPrete opined that on average, the
[plaintiff] would be absent from work more than four days
per month due to her impairments or treatment. Interestingly,
Dr. DelPrete opined that the [plaintiff]'s substance
abuse does contribute to her limitations as set forth above.
Those statements were apparently withheld from state agency
physicians and were not submitted until June 2015. The state
agency physicians saw Dr. DelPrete's actual records
through August 2014. Her subsequent records do not show any
Id. at 24 (citations omitted).
stated that he gave the DelPrete opinions “minimal
weight” because they were “inconsistent with her
treatment notes and ...