Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hafford v. U.S. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 27, 2017

Nicole Hafford
v.
US Social Security Administration, Acting Commissioner, Nancy A. Berryhill Opinion No. 2017 DNH 060

          Penelope E. Gronbeck, Esq. Robert J. Rabuck, Esq.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PAUL BARBADORO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Nicole Hafford is a twenty-seven year old woman who previously worked as a cashier and a server. Hafford challenges the Social Security Administration's denial of her claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). The Acting Social Security Commissioner seeks to have the ruling affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In accordance with Local Rule 9.1, the parties have submitted a joint statement of stipulated facts (Doc. No. 11). Because that joint statement is part of the court's record, I do not recount it here. Instead, I discuss facts relevant to the disposition of this matter as necessary below.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), I have the authority to review the administrative record and the pleadings submitted by the parties, and to enter judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the final decision of the Commissioner. That review is limited, however, “to determining whether the [Administrative Law Judge] used the proper legal standards and found facts [based] upon the proper quantum of evidence.” Ward v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 211 F.3d 652, 655 (1st Cir. 2000). I defer to the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ's) findings of fact, so long as those findings are supported by substantial evidence. Id. Substantial evidence exists “if a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support his conclusion.” Irlanda Ortiz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991) (per curiam) (quoting Rodriguez v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981)).

         If the substantial evidence standard is met, the ALJ's factual findings are conclusive, even where the record “arguably could support a different conclusion.” Id. at 770. Findings are not conclusive, however, if the ALJ derived his findings by “ignoring evidence, misapplying the law, or judging matters entrusted to experts.” Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999) (per curiam). The ALJ is responsible for determining issues of credibility and for drawing inferences from evidence in the record. Irlanda Ortiz, 955 F.2d at 769. It is the role of the ALJ, not the court, to resolve conflicts in the evidence. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Hafford applied for DIB in November 2012, claiming disability as of April 2010. The ALJ held a hearing in April 2014, at which Hafford and her brother testified. Counsel represented Hafford at the hearing. In a subsequent written decision, the ALJ found that Hafford was not disabled.

         In the decision, the ALJ used the five-step sequential process outlined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) to evaluate Hafford's claim. At the first step, the ALJ determined that Hafford had not engaged in substantial gainful employment from her alleged onset date through her date last insured. Continuing to step two, the ALJ found a number of severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, knee pain, history of seizure disorder, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, and anxiety disorder. The ALJ concluded at step three that Hafford's impairments did not meet or constitute the medical equivalent of any listed impairments. Prior to step four, the ALJ assessed Hafford's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). Because Hafford had no past relevant work, the ALJ proceeded past step four and decided at step five that a significant number of jobs existed in the national economy that Hafford could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Hafford was not disabled.

         In August 2014, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, meaning the decision constitutes the final decision of the Commissioner. The matter is now ripe for review.

         Hafford presents two primary arguments for remand: (1) the ALJ committed error when calculating her RFC, and (2) the ALJ impermissibly employed the Medical-Vocational Guidelines at step five, instead of seeking the guidance of a vocational expert. I find ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.