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Packer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

May 30, 2018

Harry Herman Packer
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration


          Paul Barbadoro, United States District Judge.

         Harry Herman Packer challenges the denial of his claim for social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits and supplemental security income (SSI) under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423; 42 U.S.C. § 1381a. He argues that the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred by determining that his residual functional capacity (RFC) was greater than the evidence showed and by finding that he could still perform some work at step five. The Acting Commissioner moves for an order affirming the decision. For the following reasons, I affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         In accordance with Local Rule 9.1, the parties have submitted a joint statement of stipulated facts. Doc. No. 17. Because that joint statement is part of the court's record, I only briefly discuss the facts here. I discuss further facts relevant to the disposition of this matter as necessary below.

         Packer was a 41 year-old man at the time of his amended alleged onset date. Administrative Record (AR) at 23, 127. He had worked as “a vinyl cutter . . . van driver . . . auto parts counter [delivery man] . . . and manager [of an] auto parts [store], ” prior to his application for benefits. AR at 34.

         Packer is morbidly obese and has several attendant physical impairments including type II diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, orthostatic hypertension, high cholesterol, and osteomyelitis, which led to the amputation of one of his toes. AR 23, 30. He claims that his neuropathy affects his coordination and fine motor skills in his hands. AR 29. He has also been a three-pack-a-day smoker for a decade and suffers restrictive lung disease and sleep apnea as a result. AR 23-24. Additionally, Packer suffers from several mental impairments, including depression, an anxiety disorder, and a personality disorder. AR 31. He claims that his personality disorder prevents him from getting along with others, which led to his termination from several jobs. AR 385.

         Packer's first physical problem was chest pain, which he began experiencing in 2008. AR 27. After suffering this initial chest pain, he stopped playing sports, but continued to work as a manager at an automotive parts store until 2012. AR 27-28, 385, 390. He has not worked regularly since 2012, spending most days in his room, watching television and playing video games up to 15 hours a day. AR 391. He is able to perform basic household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping, but does not do these chores because his mother and girlfriend do them for him. AR 26. His apathy towards completing even basic tasks extends to his use of the bathroom; rather than going to the bathroom, he keeps a bucket near his bed. AR 26.

         B. Procedural History

         Packer filed claims for both SSDI and SSI on January 28, 2014. His amended alleged onset date was June 1, 2013.[1] AR 115. The Social Security Administration denied his claims both for SSDI and SSI on September 11, 2014. AR 155, 158. On September 15, 2014, he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). AR 161.

         The ALJ conducted the hearing on December 29, 2015. AR 43. The ALJ denied Packer's claims for SSDI and SSI in a written decision on March 16, 2016. AR 36. In the decision, the ALJ applied the five-step analysis required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (for SSDI claims) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (for SSI claims). At step one, the ALJ determined that Packer had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his amended alleged onset date of June 1, 2013. AR 20, 23. At step two, the ALJ determined that Packer had the following severe impairments: “diabetes mellitus type II with diabetic neuropathy, obesity, personality disorder, and anxiety disorder.” AR 23. At step three, the ALJ determined that Packer did not have any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R., Subpart P, Appendix 1, which would render him disabled per se. AR 25. At step four, the ALJ determined that Packer had a RFC to do “sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR [§] 404.1567(a) and [§] 416.967(a), ” and that he also:

“[can] lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally[;]
cannot climb ladders[, ] ropes[, ] and scaffolds[;]
can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, and crawl[; and]
may only have brief and superficial interaction with the general public.” AR 27.

         The ALJ determined that, in light of this RFC, Packer could not return to his past relevant work. AR 34. At step five, after considering the opinion of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that Packer could work in a number of other jobs that existed in the national economy, including, “hand package inspector, ” “price marker, ” and “electric assembler.” AR 35. The ALJ found that Packer was not disabled and denied his claims for both SSDI and SSI. AR 36.

         Packer petitioned the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied his request for review. AR 1. Packer filed a complaint for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) on June 26, 2017. Doc. 1.


         I am authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the pleadings submitted by the parties and the administrative record and enter a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the “final decision” of the Commissioner. That review is limited, however, “to determining whether the ALJ used the proper legal standards and found facts [based] upon the proper quantum of evidence.” Ward v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 211 F.3d 652, 655 (1st Cir. 2000). I defer to the ALJ's findings of fact, as long as those findings are supported by substantial evidence. Id. Substantial evidence exists “if a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support his conclusion.” Irlan ...

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