United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
DiCLERICO, Jr., District Judge.
Amaral seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Â§ 405(g),
of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration, denying her application for social
security disability benefits after Amaral was awarded
supplemental security income. Amaral moves to reverse and
remand the decision, contending that the Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ") erred in failing to call a medical
expert to determine Amaral's disability onset date, erred
in the weight given to her treating physician's opinion,
erred in evaluating her mental health impairments, and erred
in assessing Amaral's residual functional capacity. The
Acting Secretary 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. Â§ 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 ("SSI"),
under Title XVI, and disability insurance benefits
("DIB"), under Title II, on September 9, 2012, when
she was fifty-two years old. For purposes of SSI, she was
determined to be disabled because of anxiety related
disorders and affective/mood disorders beginning on June 1,
2012, but she was not awarded SSI because she had too much
income. For purposes of DIB, the agency concluded that she
had not been disabled through her last insured date on
December 31, 2008.
administrative record of medical treatment begins in 2004
when Amaral required a physical and mental examination for
purposes of her application to be a foster care provider. The
results were normal. In June of 2005, Amaral was treated at a
hospital emergency department for symptoms she associated
with anxiety but a CT scan revealed pulmonary emboli in her
lungs. She was admitted to the hospital and was prescribed
after she was released from the hospital, on June 13, 2005,
Amaral saw her treating physician, Dr. Badman, and reported
having difficulty with anxiety. A week later, Amaral told Dr.
Badman that she continued to have anxiety but her medication
was very beneficial. Ten days later, however, Amaral again
experienced breakthrough anxiety and began counselling.
of 2005, Dr. Badman explained to Amaral that anxiety
medication was not a long-term solution and discussed
alternatives. Amaral reported a panic attack to Dr. Badman on
July 21, 2005, and he told her to stop the new medication.
Through the remainder of 2005, Dr. Badman's treatment
notes show that Amaral was diagnosed with anxiety disorder
but that she was doing well on her medication.
treatment notes in 2006 generally show diagnoses of anxiety
disorder and depression. In September, Dr. Badman noted that
Amaral's anxiety was stable. In 2007, Amaral reported
during a neurological examination that she had had severe
depression and anxiety but also said that her medication had
done a good job of taking care of her anxiety. Treatment
notes in 2008 are similar and include one report that Amaral
felt she was always on the verge of anxiety decompensation.
state agency medical experts reviewed Amaral's records in
December of 2012. They found insufficient evidence to assess
her condition before December 31, 2008, her last insured
February of 2014, Jeffrey Wagner, Ph.D. conducted a
psychological evaluation of Amaral. He completed a Mental
Impairment Medical Source Statement in which he assessed
panic disorder, agoraphobia, major depression, attention
deficit disorder, and generalized anxiety. Dr. Wagner found
that Amaral was seriously limited in all mental aptitudes and
abilities to do unskilled work. He also found marked
limitations in Amaral's activities of daily living,
social functioning, and concentration, persistence, and pace.
Dr. Wagner checked a box to show that Amaral's
impairments had existed since September of 2003.
Badman completed a Physical Impairment Medical Source
Statement on February 7, 2014. He indicated diagnoses of
anxiety, GERD, TMJ syndrome, lower back pain/degenerative
disc disorder, and DVT/pulmonary embolism. Dr. Badman also
indicated that Amaral's limitations had existed since
2005 and would frequently interfere with her attention and
concentration. He found that she could not do even a low
stress job and was likely to be absent more than four days
2012, Amaral stated in her function report that she was
overwhelmed by tasks outside of her house and that her panic
attacks frequently caused her to seek care. She said that she
took care of her children with help from her mother. She also
said that she slept little and felt exhausted but that she
could take care ...