United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
K. Marsh, Esq. Robert J. Rabuck, Esq. Terry L. Ollila, AUSA
J. McAuliffe, United States District Judge
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), claimant, Nancy Cassidy, moves to
reverse or vacate the Acting Commissioner's decision
denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423 (the “Act”). The Acting Commissioner
objects and moves for an order affirming her decision.
reasons discussed below, claimant's motion is denied, and
the Acting Commissioner's motion is granted.
has unsuccessfully pursued Social Security benefits on two
prior occasions. In July of 2010, she filed applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits,
alleging an onset of disability in March of 2010. An ALJ
denied those applications by decision dated January 20, 2012.
A year later, in April of 2013, claimant again filed for both
DIB and SSI benefits, alleging a disability onset date of
March of 2012. An ALJ denied those applications by decision
dated December 24, 2014.
recently, in March of 2015, claimant filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging that she was disabled
and had been unable to work since December 25, 2014 (the day
following her last denial). Claimant was 40 years old at the
time and had acquired sufficient quarters of coverage to
remain insured through June of 2017. Claimant's
application was denied and she requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
of 2016, claimant, her attorney, and an impartial vocational
expert appeared before an ALJ, who considered claimant's
application de novo. Following the hearing, the ALJ held the
record open so claimant might submit additional evidence in
support of her application. In July, claimant provided those
additional materials. See Admin. Rec. at 30-87; 625-30. The
ALJ then 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 (October
12, 2016). In response, claimant requested 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 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
Commissioner” (document no. 7). In response, the Acting
Commissioner filed a “Motion for an Order Affirming the
Decision of the Commissioner” (document no. 10). 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.
9), need not be recounted in this opinion. Those facts
relevant to the disposition of this matter are discussed as
“Substantial Evidence” and Deferential Review.
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). 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).
Parties' Respective Burdens.
individual seeking 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). The Act places the 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
Manso-Pizarro v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 76 F.3d 15, 17 (1st Cir. 1996); Gray v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 369, 371 (1st Cir. 1985). 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 and 404.1560.
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. Secretary
of Health & Human Services, 690 F.2d 5, 6 (1st Cir.
1982). Ultimately, a claimant is disabled only if her:
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous
work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which [she]
lives, or whether a ...