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Harvey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

November 14, 2017

Corinna Leigh Harvey, Claimant
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant

          ORDER

          STEVEN J. McAULIFFE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), claimant, Corinna Harvey, moves to reverse or vacate the Acting Commissioner's decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 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 granted to the extent she seeks a remand for further proceedings, and the Acting Commissioner's motion is denied.

         Factual Background

         I. Procedural History.

         In October of 2013, claimant filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits, alleging that she was disabled and had been unable to work since October 18, 2013. Claimant was 39 years old at the time. That application was denied and claimant requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

         In September of 2015, claimant, her representative, and an impartial vocational expert appeared before an ALJ, who considered claimant's application de novo. Five weeks later, the ALJ issued her written decision, concluding that claimant was not disabled, as that term is defined in the Act. Claimant then sought review by the Appeals Council. That request was denied. Accordingly, the ALJ's denial of claimant's application 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. 9). 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. 10), 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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