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Lincourt v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 23, 2014

Wade Armand Lincourt, Claimant,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER OPINION NO. 2014 DNH 199.

STEVEN J. McAULIFFE, District Judge.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), Wade Lincourt moves to reverse or vacate the Acting Commissioner's decisions denying his applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and Child's Disability Benefits. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(d), 423, and 1381-1383c. The Acting Commissioner objects and moves for an order affirming her decisions.

For the reasons discussed below, claimant's motion is denied, and the Acting Commissioner's motion is granted.

Factual Background

I. Procedural History.

In the spring of 2010, claimant filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), and Child's Disability Benefits ("CDB"), alleging a disability onset date of August 15, 2008, at which time he was 19 years old. Those applications were denied and claimant requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ").

In August of 2011, claimant appeared before an ALJ, who considered his applications de novo. Two weeks later, the ALJ issued her written decision, concluding that claimant was not disabled, as that term is defined in the Act. The Appeals Council denied claimant's request for review. But, in December of 2011, the ALJ notified claimant that she was reopening her decision so claimant's medical record might be more fully developed. Letters requesting updated medical records were sent to James DeJohn, M.D., and Salmon Falls Family Healthcare. Dr. DeJohn responded that claimant was no longer a patient at his practice and there were no new medical records to provide. Admin. Rec. at 393. Salmon Falls Family Healthcare produced medical records from an office visit in April, 2011 (though those records provided no support for claimant's assertion of disability). Id. at 394-98.

In March of 2012, a different ALJ held a new hearing, at which claimant and his mother appeared and testified. Shortly thereafter, the ALJ issued two decisions: one finding that claimant was not disabled with respect to his SSI and DIB claims (Amin. Rec. at 429-41), and one finding that he was not disabled with respect to his CDB claim (Admin. Rec. at 16-27). The appeals council again denied claimant's request for review and the ALJ's adverse decisions became the final decisions of the Acting Commissioner, subject to judicial review. Subsequently, claimant filed a timely action in this court, asserting that the ALJ's decisions are not supported by substantial evidence. Claimant then filed a "Motion for Order Reversing Decision of the Commissioner" (document no. 11). In response, the Acting Commissioner filed a "Motion for an Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner" (document no. 12). Those motions are pending.

II. Stipulated Facts.

Pursuant to this court's Local Rule 9.1, the parties have submitted a statement of stipulated facts which, because it is part of the court's record (document no. 14), need not be recounted in this opinion. Those facts relevant to the disposition of this matter are discussed as appropriate.

Standard of Review

I. "Substantial Evidence" and Deferential Review.

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 and credibility determinations made by the Commissioner are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). See also Irlanda Ortiz v. Secretary of Health & Human Services , 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB , 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). It is something less than a preponderance of the evidence, so the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does ...


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