United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
DiCLERICO, Jr., District Judge.
Williams, proceeding pro se, seeks judicial review, pursuant
to U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying
her application for supplemental security income. The Acting
Commissioner moves to affirm.
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).
applied for supplemental security income benefits on October
30, 2012, alleging a disability beginning on March 1, 2012,
caused by panic attacks, depression, and anxiety. After her
application was denied, she requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on
May 22, 2014. Williams was forty-four at the time of the
hearing, had completed eighth grade, and previously had
worked briefly as a cashier.
medical background begins in October of 2012 when she went to
the emergency room at Lakes Region General Hospital because
of anxiety. She was prescribed Lorazepam. She began
treatment, as a new patient, with Laura Zakorchemny, APRN, on
November 15, 2012. Her record indicates she was then taking
Prozac and Buspirone for anxiety and would be referred for
counseling when it was available. Williams sought treatment
at the emergency room and with Nurse Zakorchemny over the
next two months for plugged ears, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Williams reported that she was not taking her prescribed
medications because she was worried about side effects and
could not afford the medications.
appointments in February, April, and May of 2012 with Nurse
Zakorchemny, Williams reported that Prozac was working well.
Nurse Zakorchemny noted that Williams was not in acute
distress, had intact judgment, insight, and memory, was
oriented, and had no depression, anxiety, or agitation.
April of 2013, Williams had a consultative psychological
examination with Robert Prescott, Ph.D. Williams reported her
history of panic attacks and her medication that she said was
helping. Based on his examination, Dr. Prescott found that
Williams had average intelligence, a marginally adequate
ability to abstract, the ability to interact and communicate
appropriately despite not being at ease with people she did
not know and in crowds, the ability to understand and
remember basic work procedures, and the ability to manage low
levels of stress and change.
of 2013, Craig Stenslie, Ph.D., a nonexamining psychologist,
reviewed Williams's records and assessed her mental
function. Based on his review, Dr. Stenslie concluded that
Williams could deal with directions, maintain attention for
extended periods, sustain an ordinary routine without special
supervision, complete a normal work day and work week, could
work in coordination with others, and deal adequately with
change in a low-stress environment.
appeared and testified at the hearing before the ALJ without
an attorney or other representation. When the ALJ told
Williams that she had the right to representation by an
attorney or someone else, she said that she wanted to proceed
without representation. Williams testified that she lived
with her husband and two sons, one of whom was disabled and
needed heart surgery. She described her anxiety and panic
attacks and the effects of medication and counseling in
issued a decision on July 24, 2014, finding that Williams was
not disabled. The ALJ found that Williams had a severe
impairment of anxiety but was nevertheless able to do work at
all exertional levels in a low-stress environment that only
required occasional interaction with the general public.
Relying on the Medical Vocational Guidelines, Rule 204, the
ALJ concluded that she could perform work that exists in the
national economy. Williams requested review by the Appeals
Council, and the Appeals Council denied her requiest on
filed a one-page motion to reverse the Acting
Commissioner's decision. She states that the Appeals
Council did not review her claim and that she submitted
medical documentation. The Acting Commissioner moves to
affirm on the grounds that the Appeals Council properly
denied Williams's request for ...