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Buccellato v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 30, 2016

Daniel Peter Buccellato, Claimant
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant Opinion No. 2016 DNH 066

ORDER

Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), claimant, Daniel Buccellato, moves to reverse the Acting Commissioner’s decision denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 423, and Supplemental Security Income Benefits under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383(c). The Acting Commissioner objects and moves for an order affirming her decision.

For the reasons discussed below, the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.

Factual Background

I. Procedural History.

In 2011, Buccellato filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits, alleging that he had been unable to work since January 14, 2011, due to multiple surgeries on his right knee with limited mobility and pain, bipolar disorder, ulcers, gout, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a donated kidney. Administrative Record (“Admin. Rec.”) at 111-112, 200-12, 263. That application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. at 67-116, 123-36. Buccellato then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Id. at 137-38.

On June 11, 2013, Buccellato, his attorney, and a vocational expert appeared before an ALJ, who considered claimant’s application de novo. Two weeks later, on June 26, 2013, the ALJ issued his written decision, concluding that Buccellato was not “under a disability, ” as defined in the Act, from January 14, 2011, through the date of his decision. Id. at 34.

Buccellato then sought review of the ALJ’s decision by the Appeals Council. Id. at 22. By notice dated June 16, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Buccellato’s request for review. Id. at 1-4. Accordingly, the ALJ’s denial of Buccellato’s application for benefits became the final decision of the Commissioner, subject to judicial review. Id. at 1. Subsequently, Buccellato filed a timely action in this court, asserting that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence. Buccellato then filed a “Motion for Order Reversing Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 12). In response, the Acting Commissioner filed a “Motion for Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 14). 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. 15), 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 not ...


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