United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Laplante United States District Judge
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Cory Bodette moves for an order
reversing the Acting Commissioner’s decision to deny
his application for Social Security disability insurance
benefits, or DIB, under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. § 423, and for supplemental security income,
or SSI, under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. § 1382. The Acting
Commissioner, in turn, moves for an order affirming her
decision. For the reasons that follow, this matter is
remanded to the Acting Commissioner for further proceedings
consistent with this order.
Standard of Review
applicable standard of review in this case provides, in
The [district] court shall have power 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. The findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (setting out the standard of review
for DIB decisions); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)
(establishing § 405(g) as the standard of review for SSI
decisions). However, the court “must uphold a denial of
social security . . . benefits unless ‘the [Acting
Commissioner] has committed a legal or factual error in
evaluating a particular claim.’”
Manso-Pizarro v. Sec’y of HHS, 76 F.3d 15, 16
(1st Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (quoting Sullivan v.
Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 885 (1989)).
the statutory requirement that the Acting
Commissioner’s findings of fact be supported by
substantial evidence, “[t]he substantial evidence test
applies not only to findings of basic evidentiary facts, but
also to inferences and conclusions drawn from such
facts.” Alexandrou v. Sullivan, 764 F.Supp.
916, 917-18 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (citing Levine v.
Gardner, 360 F.2d 727, 730 (2d Cir. 1966)). In turn,
“[s]ubstantial evidence is ‘more than [a] mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.’” Currier v. Sec’y of
HEW, 612 F.2d 594, 597 (1st Cir. 1980) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
But, “[i]t is the responsibility of the [Acting
Commissioner] to determine issues of credibility and to draw
inferences from the record evidence. Indeed, the resolution
of conflicts in the evidence is for the [Acting
Commissioner], not the courts.” Irlanda Ortiz v.
Sec’y of HHS, 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991)
(per curiam) (citations omitted). Moreover, the court
“must uphold the [Acting Commissioner’s]
conclusion, even if the record arguably could justify a
different conclusion, so long as it is supported by
substantial evidence.” Tsarelka v. Sec’y of
HHS, 842 F.2d 529, 535 (1st Cir. 1988) (per curiam).
Finally, when determining whether a decision of the Acting
Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence, the court
must “review the evidence in the record as a
whole.” Irlanda Ortiz, 955 F.2d at 769 (quoting
Rodriguez v. Sec’y of HHS, 647 F.2d 218, 222
(1st Cir. 1981)).
parties have submitted a Joint Statement of Material Facts.
That statement is part of the court’s record and
will be summarized here, rather than repeated in full.
Moreover, the following summary focusses on those facts
relevant to the disposition of the motions before the court.
last worked as a lot associate at Home Depot. Before that, he
worked as a cashier at Walmart. He left his job at Home Depot
on June 13, 2012, which is the date on which he claims to
have become disabled. Two days before he stopped working,
Bodette went to the doctor, complaining of
syncope. He continues to have syncopal episodes,
but doctors have been unable to determine the root cause.
About two weeks after he stopped working, Bodette applied for
SSI and DIB benefits, claiming that he was disabled by
syncope, migraine headaches, and depression.
September 12, 2012, Bodette was seen by a psychologist, Dr.
Cheryl Bildner, who performed a consultative
examination.In the Mental Health Evaluation Report that
resulted from her examination, Dr. Bildner gave Bodette three
relevant diagnoses: (1) severe recurrent major depressive
disorder with psychotic features; (2) chronic posttraumatic
stress disorder; and (3) attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder, by history. Under the heading “Content of
Thought, ” Dr. Bildner noted:
Claimant reported suicidal thoughts. He reported having a
firearm at home and thoughts of killing himself. He denied
any intent and reported that he “doesn’t want
anyone to have to clean up his mess.” He contracted for
safety and contracted to bring himself to the emergency room
if he experienced suicidal thoughts. He denied any plans to
harm others. He reported hearing voices and stated that the
voices are critical in nature. He also reported that [the
voices tell] him to hurt himself but he “knows they are
not real”. He reported experiencing flashbacks and
nightmares of past abuse. He denied experiencing obsessions
or compulsions. He reported that he experiences hypervigilant
tendencies and experiences high anxiety including panic
attacks and racing thoughts. He checks to make sure doors are
locked and windows are shut. He was focused on his
psychological symptoms and his physical health.
respect to Bodette’s level of functioning at the time
she examined him, Dr. Bildner offered the following opinions:
Claimant is predominantly able to complete activities of
. . . .
Claimant is able to interact appropriately and communicate
effectively with others. Claimant maintained consistent
employment for over four years.
. . . .
Claimant is able to understand and recall instructions. No
gross deficits were observed in cognitive functioning. He is
able to recall employment procedures as evidenced by his
ability to sustain long term employment.
. . . .
Claimant is able to maintain attention and concentration when
appropriately motivated. Currently, he is enrolled in two
online computer courses which he is engaged in. On the job,
he has a history of maintaining consistent attention and
concentration. Concentration and task completion will be
interrupted during a syncope episode.
. . . .
Claimant is currently unable to manage stress associated with
a place of employment. He is preoccupied with physical health
and feels “unsafe” to go to work. He has no
motivation to report to work. He reported that he is
currently employed by Home Depot. He is not motivated to
maintain a schedule. He is able to interact ...