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 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 April 4, 2017
decision of the Administrative Law Judge. (ALJ Decision, ECF
No. 14-2.) 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 obesity and diabetes type II with
peripheral neuropathy. (ALJ Decision ¶¶ 3, 4, R
13.) The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff, though impaired,
retains the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
light-exertion work, provided he does not have to stand
and/or walk for greater than 3 hours in an 8-hour workday, or
for longer than a 1hour interval. Additionally, the ALJ found
Plaintiff is able to perform frequent fingering, pushing, and
pulling, but only occasional feeling. Plaintiff cannot
operate foot controls, balance on uneven surfaces, or climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. Plaintiff can only occasionally
climb ramps and stairs, crouch, kneel, stoop, and crawl.
Plaintiff's RFC is also subject to certain environmental
restrictions. (Id. ¶ 5, R. 14.)
past relevant work consists of driving a bus, which he is
unable to perform because the job requires medium exertion
and the use of his feet. (Id. ¶ 6, R. 18;
Hr'g Tr. at 4, R. 37.) After considering Plaintiff's
RFC and Plaintiff's age (younger individual), and
education (high school), a vocational expert testified that
work exists in sufficient numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff could perform, including in three specific,
sedentary occupations (bench worker, assembler, and circuit
board inspector). (ALJ Decision ¶¶ 7 - 10, R. 18 -
19.) The ALJ accepted the vocational expert's testimony
and concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id.
¶¶ 10 - 11, R. 19 - 20.)
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 the ALJ did not adequately explain the reasons he gave
only limited weight to the vocational rehabilitation report,
particularly as to the findings regarding upper extremity
function. Plaintiff maintains the report is consistent with
the opinions expressed by Sarah Chamberlain, D.O., and Sarah
Crane, D.O., who assessed Plaintiff's limitations.
(Statement of Errors at 5 - 7.) Plaintiff further argues the
ALJ erred in the weight afforded to the opinion evidence of
record (id. at 7 - 12), and did not fairly evaluate
Plaintiff's reported symptoms (id. at 12 - 15).
Assessment of Opinion Evidence
contends the ALJ improperly weighed the work capacity
determination made by Dustin Greenlaw of the Maine Bureau of
Rehabilitation Services. The ALJ discussed Mr. Greenlaw's
report and gave “limited weight” to Mr.
Greenlaw's determination. (R. 15.) The ALJ assessed Mr.
Greenlaw's conclusions in the context of his evaluation
of the entire record. As the following analysis reveals, the
ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's medical records and
the medical opinions of record is sound, and thus his
decision to give limited weight to Mr. Greenlaw's report
assessment of Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ considered the
functional capacity evaluation (FCE) report of Anne Knowles,
PT, dated February 20, 2015. (R. 15; Ex. 3F, R. 323 - 26.)
According to Ms. Knowles, Plaintiff reported that he was
unable to pass the Department of Transportation physical to
remain a bus driver; that he is limited in his ability to
engage in “tight grasp activities like shoveling”
and certain lifting activity like “setting up the
cones, mats, weights, dexterity tests, etc. when at
work” (R. 323); and that he ...