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 December 20, 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 as of December 31, 2012, the date last insured,
Plaintiff had severe, but non-listing-level impairments
consisting of degenerative disk disease, facet arthropathy
and chronic pain. (R. 14.) The ALJ further determined that
Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
light work, with no more than occasional balancing, kneeling,
crouching, crawling and stooping, with sitting limited to 5
hours in an 8-hour day and standing and walking limited to 4
hours in an 8-hour day. (R. 15.)
ultimately concluded that Plaintiff could perform past
relevant work as a driver's education instructor, which
job did not require Plaintiff to perform any work-related
activities precluded by the RFC.
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 effectively discounted all the relevant
medical opinion evidence and, therefore, the ALJ's RFC
assessment is not supported by substantial evidence.
Plaintiff also contends that, because a portion of the
hearing transcript is inaudible, the Court cannot effectively
evaluate the ALJ's decision and, therefore, remand is
Schuler's Mental RFC Assessment
argues the ALJ erred in discounting the mental RFC opinion of
Carl Schuler, D.O. Dr. Schuler, Plaintiff's primary care
physician for approximately 20 years, completed a
“Mental Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire,
” dated September 20, 2016. (R. 1129-34.) The form
reflects that Dr. Schuler diagnosed Plaintiff with
depression. (R. 1129.) He also assessed her “mental
abilities and aptitudes needed to do unskilled work” as
“[l]imited but satisfactory, ” with the exception
of her ability to “[c]omplete a normal workday and
workweek without interruptions from psychologically based
symptoms, ” which he assessed as “[s]eriously
limited, but not ...