United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
J. McAuliffe United States District Judge.
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), claimant,
Prudence Schwarz, moves to reverse or vacate the Acting
Commissioner's decision denying her 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
reasons discussed below, claimant's motion is denied, and
the Acting Commissioner's motion is granted.
of 2013, 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 October 20, 2011. Claimant was 31
years old at the time and had acquired sufficient quarters of
coverage to remain insured through September 30, 2013. Those
applications were denied and claimant requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
December of 2014, claimant, her attorney, and an impartial
vocational expert appeared by video conferencing 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 requested review by the Appeals Council. That
request was denied. 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.
then filed a “Motion to Reverse Decision of the
Commissioner” (document no. 6). In response, the Acting
Commissioner filed a “Motion for an Order Affirming the
Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 9). Those
motions are pending.
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.
8), need not be recounted in this opinion. Those facts
relevant to the disposition of this matter are discussed as
“Substantial Evidence” and Deferential
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).
The Parties' Respective Burdens.
individual seeking SSI and/or DIB benefits is disabled under
the Act if he or she is unable “to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). See
also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3). The Act places a
heavy initial burden on the claimant to establish the
existence of a disabling impairment. See Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146-47 (1987); Santiago v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 944 F.2d 1, 5
(1st Cir. 1991). To satisfy that burden, the claimant must
prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that her
impairment prevents her from performing her former type of
work. See Gray v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 369, 371 (1st
Cir. 1985); Paone v. Schweiker, 530 F.Supp. 808,
810-11 (D. Mass. 1982). If the claimant demonstrates an
inability to perform her previous work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to show that there are other jobs in the
national economy that she can perform, in light of her age,
education, and prior work experience. See Vazquez v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 683 F.2d 1, 2
(1st Cir. 1982). See also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1512(f) and 416.912(f).
assessing a disability claim, the Commissioner considers both
objective and subjective factors, including: (1) objective
medical facts; (2) the claimant's subjective claims of
pain and disability, as supported by the testimony of the
claimant or other witnesses; and (3) the claimant's
educational background, age, and work experience. See,
e.g., Avery v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 797 F.2d 19, 23 (1st Cir. 1986);
Goodermote v. ...