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 and supplemental security income benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, Defendant, the
Social Security Administration Commissioner, found that
Plaintiff has a severe impairment, 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 August 18, 2017,
decision of the Administrative Law Judge. (ALJ Decision, ECF
No. 9-2.) 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 a severe, but non-listing-level
impairment of bipolar disorder. The ALJ concluded Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full
range of work at all exertional levels with certain
non-exertional limitations. According the ALJ, Plaintiff
“must avoid a variety of instructions or tasks, but is
able to understand to carry out simple one or two step
instructions and is able to understand to carry out detailed
but uninvolved written or oral instructions involving a few
concrete variables in or from standardized situations;
[Plaintiff] would be able to work in 2-hour blocks of time
within this range of work over a normal workday and workweek;
cannot work with the public, but can work with superiors and
co-workers and is able to adapt to simple changes.”
(ALJ Decision ¶ 5, R. 16.)
Plaintiff's RFC, including the non-exertional
limitations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to
perform any past relevant work. After consideration of the
testimony of a vocational expert and in accordance with the
expert's testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could
perform the representative jobs of laundry sorter, cleaner
housekeeper, and dishwasher, which jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. The ALJ, therefore, found
Plaintiff was not disabled.
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).
contends the ALJ erred (1) at step 2, when she failed to find
Plaintiff had other severe impairments, including ADHD,
anxiety, and PTSD, (2) in her evaluation of the medical
opinions in the formation of Plaintiff's RFC, and (3) in
her assessment of Plaintiff's subjective complaints.
Step 2 Findings
2 of the sequential evaluation process, a claimant must
demonstrate the existence of impairments that are
“severe” from a vocational perspective, and that
the impairments meet the durational requirement of the Social
Security Act. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The step 2
requirement of “severe” impairment imposes a de
minimis burden, designed merely to screen groundless claims.
McDonald v. Sec'y of HHS, 795 F.2d 1118, 1123
(1st Cir. 1986). An impairment or combination of impairments
is not severe when the medical evidence “establishes
only a slight abnormality or 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. at 1124 (quoting
Social Security Ruling 85-28). In other words, an impairment
is severe if it has more than a minimal impact on the
claimant's ability to perform basic work activities on a
regular and continuing basis. Id. A severe
impairment, however, may be deemed non-severe through the
ameliorative influence of medication and other forms of
treatment. Parsons v. Astrue, No. 1:08-cv-218-JAW,
2009 WL 166552 at *2 n.2 (Jan. 23, 2009), aff'd
2009 WL 361193 (Feb. 12, 2009).
if error occurred at step 2, remand is only appropriate when
the claimant can demonstrate that an omitted impairment
imposes a restriction beyond the physical and mental
limitations recognized in the Commissioner's RFC finding,
and that the additional restriction is material to the
ALJ's “not disabled” finding at step 4 or
step 5. Socobasin v. Astrue, 882 F.Supp.2d 137, 142
(D. Me. 2012) (citing Bolduc v. Astrue, No. 1:09-cv-
220-JAW, 2010 WL 276280, at *4 n. 3 (D. Me. Jan. 19, 2010)
(“[A]n error at Step 2 is uniformly considered