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Shane Walsh v. Michael J. Astrue

March 20, 2012

SHANE WALSH, CLAIMANT
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge

Opinion No. 2012 DNH 034

ORDER

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Claimant, Shane Walsh, moves to reverse the Commissioner's decision denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423 (the "Act"). The Commissioner objects and moves for an order affirming his decision.

Factual Background

I. Procedural History

On December 9, 2008, claimant filed an application for social security disability insurance benefits ("DIB benefits"), alleging that he had been unable to work because of disability due to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and problems with sleep. His application for benefits was denied and he requested an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ").

On September 10, 2010, claimant (who was then 28 years old), his attorney, and an impartial vocational expert appeared before an ALJ. On October 20, 2010, the ALJ issued his written decision, concluding that claimant was not disabled from March 31, 2008, through the date of the ALJ's decision and that claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a prep cook and file clerk. In the alternative, the ALJ found that claimant could perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as janitor and groundskeeper.

The Decision Review Board ("DRB") selected the ALJ's decision for review. The DRB found that the ALJ's determination that claimant was not disabled was supported by substantial evidence.

Claimant filed a timely action in this court, appealing the denial of DIB benefits. Now pending are claimant's "Motion for Order Reversing Decision of the Commissioner" (document no. 9) and the Commissioner's "Motion for Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner" (document no. 12).

II. Stipulated Facts

Pursuant to Local Rule 9.1(d), the parties submitted a Joint Statement of Material Facts which, because it is part of the court record (document no. 13), need not be recounted in this opinion.

Standard of Review

I. Properly Supported Findings by the ALJ are Entitled to Deference.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court is empowered "to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." Factual findings of the Commissioner are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.*fn1 See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g); Irlanda Ortiz v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991). Moreover, provided the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the court must sustain those findings even when there may also be substantial evidence supporting the contrary position. See Tsarelka v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 842 F.2d 529, 535 (1st Cir. 1988) ("[W]e must uphold the [Commissioner's] conclusion, even if the record arguably could justify a different conclusion, so long as it is supported by substantial evidence."). See also Rodriguez v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981) ("We must uphold the [Commissioner's] findings in this case if a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support his conclusion.").

In making factual findings, the Commissioner must weigh and resolve conflicts in the evidence. See Burgos Lopez v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 747 F.2d 37, 40 (1st Cir. 1984) (citing Sitar v. Schweiker, 671 F.2d 19, 22 (1st Cir. 1982)). It is "the responsibility of the [Commissioner] to determine issues of credibility and to draw inferences from the record evidence. Indeed, the resolution of conflicts in the evidence is for the [Commissioner], not the courts." Irlanda Ortiz, 955 F.2d at 769 (citation omitted). Accordingly, the court will give deference to the ALJ's credibility determinations, particularly when those determinations are supported by specific findings. See ...


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