United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Lourdes S. Conde
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Opinion No. 2016 DNH 018
JOSEPH DICLERICO, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lourdes S. Conde seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying her application for disability benefits and supplemental security income. In support, Conde argues that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made factual and legal errors in finding that she was not disabled. The Acting Commissioner moves to affirm the decision.
Standard of Review
In reviewing the final decision of the Acting Commissioner in a social security case, the court “is limited to determining whether the ALJ deployed the proper legal standards and found facts upon the proper quantum of evidence.” Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999); accord Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2001). The court defers to the ALJ’s factual findings as long as they are supported by substantial evidence. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Astralis Condo. Ass’n v. Sec’y Dep’t of Housing & Urban Dev., 620 F.3d 62, 66 (1st Cir. 2010).
Conde was forty-three years old in August of 2010 when she alleges her disability began. She completed the seventh grade in school. She previously worked as an assembler in an industrial laundry company.
The medical records summarized in the parties’ factual statement begin in July of 2011 when Conde discussed her newly diagnosed diabetes with her treating physician, Dr. Karen Shannon. Thereafter, she had two visits to emergency rooms, in December of 2011 and May of 2012 for cardiology related symptoms. She also continued treatment for diabetes.
At the end of April of 2012, Conde went to Elliott Hospital because she had taken ten tablets of sleeping medication. She said she was thinking of suicide. She was discharged three days later with a Global Assessment of Functioning Score of 50. She then received mental health treatment at The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester. In June she started a new medication but did not have any improvement in her anxiety or poor sleep. By the end of June, she was functioning well.
Conde was assessed at The Mental Health Center on July 16, 2012. She reported agitation, angry outbursts, anxiety, poor concentration, depressed mood, low energy, poor appetite, and suicidal ideation and behavior. The assessment found, however, that her general appearance, interview behavior, thought, motor activity, speech, mood, affect, and intellect were all normal. At subsequent treatment sessions, Lourdes continued to report agitation, angry outbursts, depressed mood, decreased appetite, poor concentration, insomnia, financial stress, and high stress with her son.
Dr. E. Hurst completed a form for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services in July of 2012. Dr. Hurst recounted Conde’s report of diabetes, depression, angry outbursts, and an inability to deal with stress. During the interview, Dr. Hurst found that Conde was cooperative and pleasant, was not in acute distress, and had non-pressured speech but appeared to be somewhat depressed with a blunt and congruent affect. Conde was alert, oriented, and attentive. Dr. Hurst concluded that Conde had a moderate degree of functional loss in daily activities and social function, frequent functional loss in task performance, and repeated functional loss in stress reaction. With treatment, Dr. Hurst thought, Conde would be moderately limited and would not be able to work for four years.
Psychologist Jessica Stern conducted a mental health evaluation of Conde in September of 2012. Conde reported many problems with her son and symptoms that included constant crying, anxiety, insomnia, poor appetite, fatigue, and panic attack feelings. Conde also reported that she had vertigo.
During the interview, Conde was polite and cooperative but cried throughout. Dr. Stern found that Conde had some difficulty remembering verbal instructions but no difficulty following written instructions and that Conde would not have trouble with attendance or getting along with others in a work environment. Dr. Stern also concluded that if Conde could set boundaries for her son, she would do better emotionally. Based on a review of the record, Dr. Laura Landerman, a psychologist, found in September of 2012 that Conde was able to understand, recall, and carry out short and simple instructions and could sustain concentration and attention for two hours on routine tasks at an acceptable pace in a work day.
In October of 2012, Lourdes was treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital for acute nausea and vomiting. A CT scan of her head showed evidence of a past infract, a stroke, involving the left medial occipital lobe. As a result of the stroke, Lourdes had a vision deficit in her right eye.
On November 4, 2012, Conde again attempted suicide by taking an over dose of medication. During her meeting for medication management the next week, Conde discussed the ongoing problems with her son and ...