United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Smith Young, Esq.
David Plourde, Esq.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
K. Johnstone United States Magistrate Judge.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Daniel Locke moves to reverse the
Acting Commissioner's decision to deny his application
for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423. 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.
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). However, the court “must
uphold a denial of social security disability 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, document no. 13, is part of the court's
record and will be summarized here, rather than repeated in
worked as a collision repair technician until April 15, 2012,
the date on which he claims to have become disabled. He
applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) about three months later, claiming that
he was unable to work due to “[p]eripheral neuropathy
from diabetes, loss of balance [and] numbness, burning,
tickling in fingers and feet.” Administrative
Transcript (hereinafter “Tr.”) 163. He has been
diagnosed with diabetes mellitus and peripheral
three months after Locke applied for DIB, he was examined by
Dr. John Fothergill. Thereafter, Dr. Fothergill wrote a
narrative that includes the following relevant observations:
[H]e states that that he cannot drive for longer than 30
minutes because holding the steering wheel become impossible.
. . . With respect to lifting things certainly he cannot do
what he used to do. He has a significant problem because he
just cannot feel what he is holding and he's dropped
things, the weight itself is not necessarily a problem.
Carrying is also limited because of problems with his hands
week after Locke saw Dr. Fothergill, Locke's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) was assessed by
Dr. Burton Nault, a state-agency physician who reviewed his
medical records. Dr. Nault opined: “There are no
exertional (lifting, carrying walking, standing, sitting,
pushing, or pulling) or non-exertional (postural,
manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental)
limitations.” Tr. 56.
February of 2014, Locke was seen by Dr. Gregory White of the
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who examined him and
completed a form titled “Diabetic Sensory-Motor
Peripheral Neuropathy Disability Benefits
Questionnaire.” On that form, Dr. White: (1) reported
the results of a neurologic exam; and (2) characterized the
severity of Locke's upper and lower extremity neuropathy.
He concluded with the following description of the functional
impact of Locke's neuropathy:
[V]eteran had to leave his job as an auto/auto body mechanic
around May 2012 due to inability to manipulate small parts
such as screws, clips and wires with both hands, largely
because he could not feel them well. Also he had difficulty
using tools for both finely coordinated work and also for
work requiring gross hand strength or prolonged grasping.
Also due to lower extremity neuropathy he had difficulty
standing for long periods of time that was frequently
required on that type of job. These impairments in strength