United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
David A. Newman
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security
McCafferty, United States District Judge.
A. Newman seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration, denying his application for
disability insurance benefits. Newman moves to reverse the
Acting Commissioner's decision, contending that the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ")-specifically, the residual functional
capacity assessment-is not supported by substantial evidence.
The Acting Commissioner moves to affirm. For the following
reasons, the Acting Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
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. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Fischer v.
Colvin, 831 F.3d 31, 34 (1st Cir. 2016).
"Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla. It means
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Astralis Condo.
Ass'n v. Sec'y Dep't of Housing & Urban
Dev., 620 F.3d 62, 66 (1st Cir. 2010).
determining whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ follows a
five-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). The claimant "has the burden of
production and proof at the first four steps of the
process." Freeman v. Barnhart, 274 F.3d 606,
608 (1st Cir. 2001). The first three steps are (1)
determining whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) determining whether he has a severe
impairment; and (3) determining whether the impairment meets
or equals a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)
(4) (i)- (iii) .
fourth step of the sequential analysis, the ALJ assesses the
claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"), which is a determination of the most a
person can do in a work setting despite his limitations
caused by impairments, Id. § 404.1545(a)(1),
and his past relevant work, id. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv)). If the claimant can perform his past
relevant work, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not
disabled. See Id. If the claimant cannot perform his
past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to Step Five, in which
the ALJ has the burden of showing that jobs exist in the
economy which the claimant can do in light of the RFC
assessment. See Id. § 404.1520 (a) (4) (v) .
August 17, 2016, Newman applied for disability insurance
benefits, claiming a disability that began on February 21,
2015.He was 54 years old at the time of his
application, had a high school education, and had previously
worked as a photocopy machine operator and security officer.
Newman alleged that he was disabled as a result of right
upper extremity dysfunction, chronic back pain following
fusion surgery, right lower extremity arthritis, depression,
post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), panic
disorder, anxiety disorder, and bilateral upper extremity
tremors. Newman's application was initially denied, and
he sought review before an ALJ.
16, 2017, a hearing before an ALJ was held. Newman was
represented by an attorney and testified at the hearing. Jack
Bopp, a vocational expert, appeared and testified by phone.
functional limitations, there is evidence in the record to
support the position that Newman's anxiety and depression
impeded his abilities to concentrate, interact with others
socially, and be out in public. For example, in June 2016,
Newman reported to Tara Fraser, Physician's Assistant and
Newman's primary care provider, that he was anxious in
crowds and afraid to leave his house. Newman reported that,
as a result of his anxiety, crowds overwhelmed him, and he
limited the extent to which he went out in public. At the
hearing, Newman also testified that on one occasion, when he
went to a concert and forgot to take his anxiety medication,
he had a panic attack as he entered the venue.
view of Newman's anxiety as functionally debilitating is
supported by the consultative psychological examination
performed by Robert Prescott, Ph. D, in November 2016. Dr.
Prescott examined Newman, spoke with him about his mental
health, and reviewed some medical records. Dr. Prescott
concluded that Newman could not be expected to maintain
concentration for extended periods, manage typical levels of
stress "found in settings outside the home, " or
"interact effectively . . . with others on the
job." Admin. Rec. at 480.
other hand, there is evidence in the record showing that
Newman could effectively control his anxiety through
medication. Newman reported as much to Fraser, stating that
he could attend concerts, visit museums, and do "more
day to day activities" with the help of his anxiety
medication. Admin. Rec. at 395. At the hearing, Newman
testified that he took the medication before leaving his
house, going to the grocery store, or going to Walmart. When
he attended a concert, however, he would need to double the
agency psychologist Patricia Salt, Ph. D., provided an
assessment consistent with this latter set of evidence. She
reviewed Dr. Prescott's opinion and the records from
Newman's primary care provider. Dr. Salt concluded that
Newman could maintain attention and concentrate for extended
periods of time, could "get along adequately with those
he interacts with, " and could appropriately respond to
criticism, though she also noted that Newman may be