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.

Sunshine v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

January 29, 2018

Edward Mark Sunshine
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1] Opinion

          ORDER

          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge

         Edward Mark Sunshine seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying, in part, his application for social security disability benefits. Sunshine moves to reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision that he was no longer disabled as of October 4, 2013, contending that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in his assessment of Sunshine's residual functional capacity by improperly evaluating and weighing the medical evidence and not crediting Sunshine's subjective complaints. He also argues that the ALJ erred by relying on the vocational expert's response to hypotheticals that did not match his residual functional capacity assessment. For the reasons that follow, the decision of the Acting Commissioner is affirmed.

         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).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ follows a five-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The claimant bears the burden through the first four steps of proving that his impairments preclude his from working.[2] Freeman v. Barnhart, 274 F.3d 606, 608 (1st Cir. 2001). At the fifth step, the Acting Commissioner has the burden of showing that jobs exist which the claimant can do. Id.

         “If the claimant is found disabled at any point in the process, the ALJ must also determine if his disability continues through the date of the decision.” Nardolillo v. Astrue, No. CA 09-603 S, 2011 WL 1532147, at *3 (D.R.I. Mar. 29, 2011), report and recommendation adopted sub nom. Nardilillo v. Astrue, No. CA 09-603 S, 2011 WL 1692162 (D.R.I. Apr. 21, 2011) (internal quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted). Relevant to this case, to terminate benefits after a disability has been found, substantial evidence must demonstrate that there has been medical improvement to the point that the claimant is able to engage in substantial activity. See, e.g., Shirzay v. Astrue, No. CIV.A. 10-11661-JLT, 2012 WL 397897, at *5 (D. Mass. Jan. 19, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. CIV.A. 10-11661-JLT, 2012 WL 397970 (D. Mass. Feb. 6, 2012). Medical improvement is defined as “any decrease in the medical severity of [an] impairment” determined by “changes (improvement) in the symptoms, signs and/or laboratory findings associated with [the] impairment.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(b)(1).

         BACKGROUND

         On August 26, 2013, Edward Sunshine applied for social security disability benefits, claiming a disability that began on July 25, 2012, when he was in a motorcycle accident. Sunshine alleged that he was disabled because of a concussion, vertigo, left arm fractures, right leg fracture, blurred vision, loss of memory, confusion, migraine headaches, loss of feeling and coordination in his left hand and a limp. Sunshine was 49 years old at the time of his application. He had previously worked as a scientist, carpenter, roofer, small business owner, hot dog vendor, and “house flipper.”

         After his accident, Sunshine spent three days in the hospital recovering from his injuries. He fractured several bones and underwent surgery. In the months following the accident, Sunshine sought treatment for vertigo and headaches, as well as for the various physical injuries he sustained during the accident. Sunshine continued to seek treatment for his ailments at least through March 2015.

         On May 14, 2015, a hearing before an ALJ was held on Sunshine's application for benefits. Sunshine was represented by an attorney and testified at the hearing.

         On June 19, 2015, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision. The ALJ found Sunshine had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from his July 25, 2012 alleged onset date through the decision date. At Step Two, the ALJ found Sunshine had the following “severe” impairments after the alleged onset date, significantly limiting his ability to do basic work-related activities: “status-post surgical repair of left olecranon, radial, and 5th metacarpal fractures; status-post right patellar fracture and surgical repair of right thigh laceration; post-concussion syndrome with vestibulopathy; and obesity.” At Step Three, the ALJ found Sunshine had no impairments that met or equaled any of the listed impairments at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 at any time from the alleged onset date through the decision date. The ALJ then found that Sunshine had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”) from the July 25, 2012 alleged onset date through October 3, 2013:

[T]he claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that he could never crawl or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; could only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch; could only occasionally perform foot control operations; could only occasionally reach and never overhead reach with the non-dominant left upper extremity; could only occasionally engage in handling and fingering with the non-dominant left upper extremity; needed to avoid exposure to extreme cold, moving machinery, and unprotected heights; would have missed more than 3 days of work a month; and would have been off-task up to 20% of the workday.

         The ALJ found that, for the period from July 25, 2012 through October 3, 2013, Sunshine could not do any past relevant work and that no jobs existed in significant numbers that he could do with the assessed RFC. The ALJ thus concluded Sunshine was disabled from July 25, 2012, through October 3, 2013.

         The ALJ determined that as of October 4, 2013, medical improvement related to Sunshine's ability to work occurred. For the period from October 4, 2013, through the June 19, 2015 decision date, the ALJ assessed the following RFC:

[T]he claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that he can never crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch; can only occasionally perform foot control operations with the right lower extremity; can frequently reach and occasionally overhead reach with the non-dominant left upper extremity; can frequently engage in handling and fingering with the non-dominant left upper extremity; must avoid exposure to extreme cold, moving machinery on the work floor, unprotected heights, and very loud noises; and must avoid exposure to fluorescent lights or be permitted to wear sunglasses in the workplace.

         The ALJ then found that Sunshine could do past relevant work as a small business owner and mail order clerk.[3] The ALJ also found in the alternative that Sunshine could do other jobs existing in significant numbers in the economy.

         Accordingly, the ALJ found Sunshine was not disabled starting October 4, 2013, through the June 19, 2015 decision date. The Appeals Council denied Sunshine's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Acting Commissioner's final decision.

         DISCUSSION

         Sunshine contends that the ALJ erred in his assessment of Sunshine's residual functional capacity as of October 4, 2013, by ignoring and/or improperly discounting his treating physician's opinion and by disregarding Sunshine's own testimony as to his symptoms. He also argues that the ALJ erred at Step ...


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.