United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
O'Leary Zakre, Esq. Robert J. Rabuck, Esq.
DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge
Fisher seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration, denying his application for
supplemental security income. In support, Fisher contends
that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred
in finding that he was not disabled because substantial
evidence supports the issues he raises and that the Acting
Commissioner failed to meet her burden of showing that jobs
exist that he could do. The Acting Commissioner moves to
affirm the decision.
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).
preliminary matter, Fisher, who is represented by counsel,
misunderstands the standard of review. In support of his
motion to reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision, he
argues that substantial evidence supports the issues he
raises and contends that the ALJ's findings were,
therefore, erroneous. Even if substantial evidence supports
Fisher's claims of error, the court will affirm the
Acting Commissioner's decision as long as substantial
evidence in the record also supports the ALJ's findings.
See, e.g., Nguyen, 172 F.3d at 35 (“The
ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive when supported by
substantial evidence . . . .”); Misterka v.
Colvin, 2016 WL 5334656, at *6-*7 (D. Mass. Sept. 22,
2016) (As long as substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
finding, “it is not for this court to re-weigh the
evidence.” [internal quotation marks omitted]).
counsel's mistake, the court will review Fisher's
claims under the applicable standard of review.
applied for supplemental security income under Title XVI on
July 8, 2013, alleging disability due to a variety of
impairments, including cirrhosis of the liver. He was
forty-eight years old when he applied. He had completed the
ninth grade and had worked as a janitor, a machine operator,
and a security guard.
was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
(“NASH”) in 2013 that progressed to cirrhosis of
the liver. He was hospitalized from June 29 to July 1, 2013,
based on his family's report that he was confused and
talking nonsense. On intake, the assessment noted was
“delirium prob. Metabolic/hepatic encephalopathy with
hyperammonemia -- ? NASH vs. Etoh liver ds-His LFT patters w
liver ds, but pt. And wife denies any use of etoh for few
years.” The urine test in the emergency room was
negative for alcohol. Fisher's mental status screening
and neurological examinations at the hospital were normal. On
discharge, he was diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy.
was hospitalized in September of 2013 for gastrointestinal
bleeding. His neurological and psychiatric examinations were
normal. Lactulose, a medication to treat advanced liver
disease, was added to Fisher's medication regimen.
Johnathan Jaffe, a state medical consultant, reviewed
Fisher's medical records and issued a report on September
30, 2013. Dr. Jaffe concluded that Fisher could do light work
but would need to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such
October 6 to October 8, 2013, Fisher was again hospitalized
because of hepatic encephalopathy. Fisher's wife reported
that Fisher had had several episodes of confusion along with
dizziness and had acted as though he were drunk. Fisher's
urine screen was negative for alcohol. On admission, he was
diagnosed with altered mental status that was suspected to be
caused by acute hepatic encephalopathy which was likely
because of inadequate lactulose. His dose of lactulose was
increased, and he improved. At a follow up appointment with
Dr. Knight, Fisher reported being tired but denied any
neurological or psychiatric problems.
was hospitalized again for hepatic encephalopathy from
November 17 to November 18, 2013. His wife reported that he
had been more spaced out and had had staring episodes, and
Fisher said that he had been feeling loopy. His psychiatric
and neurological examinations were normal. At his follow up
appointment, Fisher's treating physician, Dr. Eric
Knight, reported that Fisher had acute hepatic ...