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McRedmond v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

November 21, 2017

Sara McRedmond
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration

          ORDER

          Joseph DiClerico, Jr., United States District Judge

         Sara McRedmond seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II and supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. McRedmond moves to reverse, contending that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to properly consider the opinion of Dr. Dinan and erred in assessing her residual functional capacity. The Acting Commissioner moves to affirm.

         Standard of Review

         In reviewing the final decision of the Acting Commissioner in a social security case, the court “is limited to determining whether the ALJ deployed the proper legal standards and found facts upon the proper quantum of evidence.” Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999); accord Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2001). The court defers to the ALJ's factual findings as long as they are supported by substantial evidence. § 405(g); see also Fischer v. Colvin, 831 F.3d 31, 34 (1st Cir. 2016). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla.” Richardson v. Peralles, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). When the record could support differing conclusions, the court must uphold the ALJ's findings “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) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Background

         McRedmond is thirty-nine years old. She completed two years of college and earned an Associate's Degree in office management. McRedmond previously worked as an office clerk and a cleaner. In support of her applications for benefits, McRedmond represented that her ability to work was impaired by mental and physical limitations.

         Jennifer Whitcher, LCMH, provided mental health counseling to McRedmond. On January 17, 2012, Whitcher completed a form titled “Psychological Capacities” for McRedmond. Whitcher stated that McRedmond had been diagnosed with PTSD and a major depressive disorder that was recurrent and moderate. Whitcher indicated that McRedmond had no deficit and was not limited or had only mild limitations in her abilities to do most activities. She indicated moderate limitations in maintaining attention, sustaining routine without supervision, and performing at a consistent pace. No more severe limitations were found. Whitcher, however, stated that McRedmond was not capable of working.

         On February 22, 2012, William Dinan, Ph.D., did a consultative psychological examination of McRedmond. Dr. Dinan observed mild signs of depression and moderate signs of anxiety. He also found that McRedmond was alert and oriented, her memory was adequate, but her concentration was inconsistent. Based on McRedmond's description of her history and activities, Dr. Dinan found that McRedmond's abilities to do a variety of activities and to understand and remember instructions were unimpaired. With respect to task persistence, however, Dr. Dinan found that McRedmond would be highly variable. He found that her ability to maintain attention and complete tasks was limited to basic and familiar tasks and that her pace would be slow. He diagnosed PTSD and a major depressive disorder that was recurrent and mild.

         Whitcher completed another “Psychological Capabilities” form on July 9, 2012, and again noted McRedmond's diagnoses of PTSD and recurrent and moderate major depressive disorder. She again found no limitations or only mild or moderate limitations in McRedmond's abilities to function but also stated that McRedmond was not capable of working.

         State agency physician, Dr. Louis Rosenthall, reviewed McRedmond's medical records on October 16, 2012, to evaluate her physical abilities to function. Dr. Rosenthall found that McRedmond could perform a full range of light work without any limitations.

         Rexford Burnette, Ph.D, did a psychological evaluation of McRedmond on October 22, 2012. Dr. Burnette reviewed Dr. Dinan's report and examined McRedmond. Based on his examination, he found that McRedmond was tearful and her mood was labile but that she was alert and attentive, able to concentrate and remain on track, and had intact memory. Based on McRedmond's reports, Dr. Burnette found that she had moderate limitations in her ability to do daily activities, moderate loss in the domain of social interactions, and would often have functional loss in work related tasks. He diagnosed dysthymic disorder, generalized anxiety, and chronic PTSD.

         State agency psychologist Michael Schneider, Psy.D., reviewed McRedmond's medical records on November 6, 2012, to evaluate her mental abilities. Dr. Schneider found that McRedmond had no limitations in understanding, memory, concentration, and persistence; had moderate limitations in her ability to interact appropriately with the public and her ability to accept instructions and criticisms; and was not significantly limited in her ability to get along with co-workers and to maintain socially appropriate behavior. More specifically, Dr. Schneider found that McRedmond retained the functional capacity to remember and carry out instructions, including complex instructions, for extended periods and to maintain adequate attention and complete a normal work day. Dr. Schneider limited her work function to an environment in which she would be able to avoid the general public and her supervisors would not be overly critical.

         In 2013, McRedmond was treated by Dr. Steven Youngs for pain in her left hip and leg. Dr. Youngs found that McRedmond was depressed but showed no acute or apparent distress due to pain and that her gait was normal. Dr. Youngs recommended that McRedmond exercise and lose weight. McRedmond saw Dr. Luchi Quinones in August of 2013 for back pain. After reviewing McRedmond's x-rays, Dr. Quinones advised McRedmond to exercise and prescribed vitamin D, naproxen, and Elavil.

         On January 6, 2014, Whitcher prepared a “Summary Note” in which she repeated McRedmond's reports about her prior work experiences and her symptoms. On the mental status examination report, Whitcher stated that McRedmond was well groomed and that she had normal speech, responsive affect, full orientation, good insight, and denied suicidal and homicidal thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions. Whitcher ...


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