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 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 8, 2017,
decision of the Administrative Law Judge. (ALJ Decision, ECF
No. 7-2.) 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 anxiety disorder and post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD). (R. 18, 20-21.) The ALJ also found
that Plaintiff's claims of borderline intellectual
functioning, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
migraines, and stomach symptoms were not medically
determinable impairments. (R. 19.)
on her review of the record, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but
subject to the following non-exertional limitations: in an
8-hour workday, she could perform simple, routine tasks;
never work with the general public; work in sight of
coworkers, but no work requiring teamwork or collaborative
work; and she could adapt to routine changes and make basic
work decisions. (R. 23.)
has no past relevant work. Considering Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ found that jobs
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform, including the jobs of floor cleaner,
dish washer and sandwich maker. (R. 31.)
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 when she found that Plaintiff's
alleged borderline intellectual functioning (BIF) was not a
medically determinable impairment and when she rejected
Plaintiff's related post-hearing vocational evidence.
Plaintiff further argues the ALJ failed to provide good
reasons for discounting the treating source opinions and that
the ALJ improperly relied on opinion evidence that was based
on an incomplete record.
symptom or combination of symptoms can be the basis for a
finding of disability, no matter how genuine the
individual's complaints may appear to be, unless there
are medical signs and laboratory findings demonstrating the
existence of a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce
the symptoms[, ]” Social Security Ruling 96-7p,
reprinted in West's Social Security Reporting
Service, Rulings 1983-1991 (Supp. 2015) (“SSR
96-7p”), at 133; see also 20 C.F.R. §
2 of the sequential evaluation process, a claimant must
demonstrate the existence of medically determinable
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. ...