United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
ORDER ON APPEAL
N. LAPLANTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ann MNC Wylder has appealed the Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) denial of her
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits. An administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) at the SSA ruled that, despite several
severe impairments, Wylder retains the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy, and thus is not
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a).
The Appeals Council granted Wylder's request for review,
see id. § 404.967, requiring the ALJ to
reconsider that decision, taking certain evidence into
consideration. Having done so, the ALJ again concluded that
Wylder is not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
Wylder's second request for review, with the result that
the ALJ's second decision became the final decision on
her application, see id. § 404.981. Wylder then
appealed the decision to this court, which has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (Social Security).
has moved to reverse the decision. See LR 9.1(b). The Acting
Commissioner of the SSA has cross-moved for an order
affirming the ALJ's decision. See LR 9.1(e). After
careful consideration, the court denies Wylder's motion
and grants the Acting Commissioner's motion.
Applicable legal standard
court limits its review of a final decision of the SSA
“to determining whether the ALJ used the proper legal
standards and found facts upon the proper quantum of
evidence.” Ward v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 211
F.3d 652, 655 (1st Cir. 2000). It “review[s] questions
of law de novo, but defer[s] to the Commissioner's
findings of fact, so long as they are supported by
substantial evidence, ” id., that is,
“such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion, ” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quotations omitted).
Though the evidence in the record may support multiple
conclusions, the court will still 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). The court therefore “must uphold a denial
of social security . . . benefits unless ‘the [Acting
Commissioner] has committed a legal or factual error in
evaluating a particular claim.'” Manso-Pizarro
v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 16
(1st Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (quoting Sullivan v.
Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 885 (1989)).
invoked the requisite five-step sequential evaluation process
in assessing Wylder's request for disability and
disability insurance benefits. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920. After determining that
Wylder had not engaged in substantial gainful activity after
the alleged onset of her disability on June 3, 2009, the ALJ
analyzed the severity of her impairments. At this second
step, the ALJ concluded that Wylder had several impairments:
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), unspecified depressive
disorder, hoarding disorder, obesity, degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, and osteoarthritis of the right
third step, the ALJ found that Wylder's severe
impairments did not meet or “medically equal” the
severity of one of the impairments listed in the Social
Security regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926. After
reviewing the medical evidence of record, medical opinions,
and Wylder's own statements, the ALJ concluded that
Wylder retained the RFC to perform light work, see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that she:
can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; . . . must avoid
exposure to extremes of temperature and pulmonary irritants
such as fumes, dusts, and gasses; . . . is able to perform
simple, routine tasks for two-hour blocks of time, and cannot
understand, remember, or carry out detailed instructions; . .
. can tolerate up to occasional interaction with co-workers,
but cannot engage in tandem tasks; . . . can tolerate up to
occasional interaction with the public; and . . . requires a
low-stress job, defined as one involving up to occasional
that, even limited in this manner, Wylder was able to perform
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566 and 416.966, the
ALJ concluded his analysis and found that Wylder was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
argues that the ALJ's RFC determination with respect to
her mental limitations is not supported by substantial evidence.
Specifically, Wylder contends that the ALJ failed to account
for, and his RFC determination runs contrary to, three
specific statements in Dr. Robert Prescott's March 2016
opinion, which the ALJ afforded “great
weight.” In that opinion, Dr. Prescott concluded,
among other things, that Wylder:
• “does not appear typically able to be around
unfamiliar or too many others without considerable
• “would not be expected to effectively maintain
concentration for extended periods as well as ...