United States District Court, D. Maine
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION
C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income
benefits under Title XVI 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 13, 2018
decision of the Administrative Law Judge. (ALJ Decision, ECF
No. 6-2.) The ALJ's decision tracks the familiar
five-step sequential evaluation process for analyzing social
security disability claims, 20 C.F.R. § 416.920.
found that Plaintiff has severe, but non-listing-level
impairments consisting of borderline intellectual functioning
(BIF) and anxiety. (R. 12.) The ALJ further found that
Plaintiff has a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
medium work, to understand and remember simple instructions
and tasks, and to carry out simple tasks for two-hour blocks
over the course of a normal workday/workweek, interact with
co-workers and supervisors, and have occasional contact with
the public, as well as adapt to routine changes. (R.15.)
has no past relevant work. After considering Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience and RFC, as well as the
testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that
jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff can perform, including laundry worker, hand
packer and table bench assembler. (R. 19.)
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 erred in his consideration of the assessment
of Plaintiff's primary care provider (Myra Brink, P.A.)
and in his reliance on the opinions of the state agency
consultants (May Burkhart, Ph.D. and Robert Campion, M.D.)
Plaintiff further argues that the ALJ did not properly
consider her testimony regarding the nature and severity of
Brink completed a one-page Medical Assessment of Ability to
Do Work-Related Activities form. (R. 542.) On the form, Ms.
Brink's answered “no” to questions regarding
Plaintiff's ability, in a normal work setting on a
sustained, 40 hour per week basis, to understand, remember
and carry out simple instructions; to respond appropriately
to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations; and to
deal with changes in a routine work setting. (Id.)
In the “Remarks” section of the form, Ms. Brink
stated that Plaintiff “would have difficulty following
directions and would easily get off task…. and working
in a group setting would be very difficult.”
noted that Ms. Brink does not qualify as an “acceptable
medical source” as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 416.902,
but rather as an “other source” under 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.913(d). (R. 17.) As an “other source,
” Ms. Brink could not establish the existence of
medically determinable impairments pursuant to then-effective
Social Security Ruling 06-03p, 2006 WL 2329939, at *2 (Aug.
1, 2006). Other sources may, however, be considered
to show the severity of Plaintiff's impairments and how
the impairments affect her ability to function.
(Id.; see R. 17.) The ALJ gave some weight
to Ms. Brink's opinion and characterized Ms. Brink's
opinion concerning the severity of Plaintiff's mental
limitations as “not consistent with the preponderance
of medical evidence … as well as [Plaintiff's] own
admission of activities of daily living.” (R.
ALJ's assessment of Ms. Brink's opinion, when
considered with the opinions of the state agency consultants,
the medical record, and the evidence of Plaintiff's
activity level, is supportable. The ALJ supportably gave great
weight to the mental RFC opinions of state agency
consultants. Drs. Burkhardt and Campion determined that
Plaintiff can understand and remember simple instructions and
carry out simple tasks for two-hour blocks over the course of
a normal workday/week. (R. 83-84, 96.) They observed that she
attends to her own personal care, prepares simple meals, does
light household chores, drives, and shops. (R. 81, 94.) Both
also noted that Plaintiff ...