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Ahola v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

June 1, 2017

Gerald Ahola, Claimant
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant Opinion No. 2017 DNH 100

          Laurie S. Young, Esq.

          T. David Plourde, Esq.

          ORDER

          Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge

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

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

         Factual Background

         I. Procedural History.

         In March of 2014, claimant filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), alleging that he was disabled and had been unable to work since July 28, 2008. Claimant's date last insured was September 30, 2012. At the time of his alleged onset of disability, claimant was 38 years old. His applications were denied and claimant requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

         In April of 2015, claimant, his attorney, and an impartial vocational expert appeared before an ALJ, who considered claimant's applications de novo. Six weeks later, 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 his request for review. Accordingly, the ALJ's denial of claimant's applications for benefits became the final decision of the Acting 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 for Order Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 8). In response, the Acting Commissioner filed a “Motion for an Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 10). 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. 11), 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 ...


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