United States District Court, D. Maine
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED 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 the plaintiff capable
of performing work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy. The plaintiff seeks remand on the bases
that the ALJ erred in evaluating both certain opinion
evidence of record and the plaintiff's testimony
regarding his symptoms and limitations. See Itemized
Statement of Specific Errors (“Statement of
Errors”) (ECF No. 13) at 1. I conclude that neither
error occurred. Accordingly, I recommend that the court
affirm the commissioner's decision.
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 September 30, 2016, Finding 1, Record at
12; that he had the severe impairments of degenerative disc
disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, anxiety, and
polysubstance abuse disorder, Finding 3, id. at 13;
that he had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with postural,
manipulative, environmental, and mental limitations the
details of which are not relevant here, Finding 5,
id. at 16; that, considering his age (45 years old,
defined as a younger individual, on his alleged disability
onset date, February 20, 2014), 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 7-10, id. at 22; and that he, therefore,
had not been disabled from February 20, 2014, his alleged
disability onset date, through the date of the decision,
December 14, 2016, Finding 11, id. at 23-24. 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 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. §§ 404.1520(g), 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).
The ALJ's Evaluation of the Treating Source
plaintiff first challenges the ALJ's assignment of
limited weight to the opinions of two treating physicians,
Alexandra L. Degenhardt, M.D., and Michael MacDonald, M.D.,
on the basis that the sole rationale provided is unsupported
by substantial evidence. See Statement of Errors at
4-6. He contends that, as a result, the ALJ failed to supply
the requisite good reasons for discounting treating source
opinions, warranting remand. See id.; Heath v.
Astrue, No. 1:12-cv-99-DBH, 2012 WL 6913440, at *11 (D.
Me. Dec. 30, 2012) (rec. dec., aff'd Jan. 18,
2013) (“[O]nce the [ALJ] [has] determined that [a
treating source] opinion [i]s not entitled to controlling
weight, [the ALJ] ha[s] discretion to reject it, provided
that he supplie[s] ‘good reasons' for so
doing.”) (quoting 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527[(c)(2)], 416.927[(c)(2)]). I conclude that the
ALJ's explanation is supported by substantial evidence
and, therefore, that he supplied the requisite good reasons
for his assignment of little weight to the Degenhardt and
treatment note dated August 18, 2016, Dr. Degenhardt
diagnosed the plaintiff with severe right carpal tunnel
syndrome, mild left carpal tunnel syndrome, and severe
cervical and shoulder muscle spasms from degenerative disc
disease of the cervical spine as well as prior injuries.
See Record at 853. She prescribed Lyrica for his
“severe neuropathic pain with shooting pains into the
right arm, both hands, right side of the neck, and right
shoulder” and expressed willingness to provide a
certificate for medical marijuana to address “his
severe pain, as well as muscle spasms[.]” Id.
Clearly, [the plaintiff] is unable to perform any degree of
physical work for employment. He would also be severely
limited in anything that flexes the wrists or the elbows,
especially on a repetitive basis. He suffers from chronic
intractable pain as a result.
MacDonald submitted a letter dated September 1, 2016, in
which he expressed the opinion that the plaintiff was
“unable to work at this time due to his significant
physiological and psychological impairments[, ]”
including neck and bilateral shoulder pain and severe
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Id. at 846. He
stated that the plaintiff's shoulder pain “kept him
from being able to lift or carry objects of significant
weight” and that he had “decreased sensation in
his hands secondary to his neck problems as well as severe
carpal tunnel syndrome.” Id.
accompanying Physical Impairment Medical Source Statement of
the same date, Dr. MacDonald indicated, inter alia,
that the plaintiff's experience of pain and other
symptoms was severe enough to interfere constantly with the
attention and concentration needed to perform even simple
work tasks, that he could not remain in one position for more
than five minutes at a time, could not work an ...