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Nickerson v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

January 6, 2017

Jodie Marie Nickerson, Claimant
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant Opinion No. 2017 DNH 003

          Raymond J. Kelly, Esq.

          ORDER

          Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge.

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

         For the reasons discussed below, claimant's motion is granted, and the Acting Commissioner's motion is denied.

         Factual Background

         I. Procedural History.

         In November of 2012, claimant filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), alleging that she was disabled and had been unable to work since November of 2009. Claimant was 34 years old at the time of her alleged onset of disability. Her applications were denied, and claimant requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

         In May of 2014, claimant, her attorney, and an impartial vocational expert appeared before an ALJ, who considered claimant's applications de novo. On July 7, 2014, the ALJ issued his written decision, concluding that claimant was not disabled, as that term is defined in the Act, at any time prior to the date of his decision. Claimant then sought review by the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review. Accordingly, the ALJ's denial of claimant's applications for benefits became the final decision of the Commissioner, subject to judicial review. Subsequently, claimant filed a timely action in this court, asserting that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence.

         Claimant then filed a “Motion to Reverse” the decision of the Acting Commissioner (document no. 8). In response, the Acting Commissioner filed a “Motion for an Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 11). Those motions are pending.

         II. Stipulated Facts.

         Pursuant to this court's Local Rule 9.1, the parties have submitted a joint statement of stipulated facts which, because it is part of the court's record (document no. 12), 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). Importantly, it is something less than a preponderance of the evidence, so the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Consolo v. Federal Maritime Comm'n., 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966). See also Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).

         II. The Parties' ...


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