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Jenkins v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

November 28, 2018

Shane William Jenkins
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration

          Stanley H. Robinson, Esq., Lisa G. Smoller, Esq.


          Joseph A. DiClerico Jr. United States District Judge

         Shane William Jenkins seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security that denied his application for disability insurance benefits. In support, Jenkins contends that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in assessing his residual functional capacity which caused an erroneous conclusion that he is not disabled. The Acting Commissioner moves to affirm.

         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). Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence” but less than a preponderance. Purdy v. Berryhill, 887 F.3d 7, 13 (1st Cir. 2018). The court must affirm the ALJ's findings, even if the record could support a different conclusion, as long as “a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support [the ALJ's] conclusion.” Irlanda Ortiz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord Purdy, 887 F.3d at 13.


         In his application, Jenkins claimed a disability onset date of March 1, 2015, when he was forty-four years old. Jenkins went to college for three years. He served in the army, with combat duty in Iraq. He previously has worked as a lead purification associate. He claimed disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), anxiety, depression, bulimia nervosa, and a back condition.

         Jenkins was treated for PTSD from January to March of 2016.[2]In February of 2016, Jenkins was assessed for PTSD at the VA Hospital in Northampton. The author of the assessment was Gary Harris, although the testing was administered by “Channing Harris, MA (Clinical Psychology Intern)” under the supervision of Emily Britton, Psy.D. and Michelle A. Mattison, Ph.D. Dr. Mattison co-signed the assessment.

         In the assessment, Jenkins was diagnosed with PTSD and severe alcohol use disorder. The assessment states that Jenkins had severe, markedly elevated, impairment in social functioning. With reference to occupational functioning, Jenkins's PTSD was found to have moderate impact, with “definite impairment but many aspects of occupational/other important functioning still intact.”

         William Swinburne, Ph.D., completed a comprehensive psychological profile of Jenkins on October 11, 2016, on a referral from the Social Security Disability Determination Unit. The profile was based on his examination of Jenkins, along with a review of his adult function report and a discharge summary from the VA Hospital in January of 2016. In the context of Jenkins's reaction to stress and his adaptation to work or work-like situations, Dr. Swinburne found the following:

The claimant could tolerate mild disruptions that could be encountered in the average work scene such as being asked to fulfill another function. He could manage the expectation of providing adequate attendance. However, in a work-like situation, he can be expected to be very distrustful and on guard and possibly misinterpret people's actions or words. He is capable of angry explosions, which will be expressed primarily verbally. He will have difficulty working as a member of a team and will work best by himself. He could take supervision. He can be expected to stay focused on a task if working by himself and see the task through to completion.

Doc. 5-8, Admin. Rec. at 702.

         Dr. Craig Stenslie, an agency consultative psychologist, completed a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment on October 20, 2016. Dr. Stenslie found that Jenkins could adequately deal with instructions and changes in a low stress situation. He also found that Jenkins could maintain attention, sustain an ordinary routine, complete a normal work week, and work with others if that were only a small part of his job.

         A hearing was held on October 26, 2017. Jenkins attended and testified at the hearing and was represented by an attorney who continues to represent him. Anthony James Paige, who is a clinical mental health counselor and who had worked ...

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