United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Lance Tillinghast, Esq. Hugh Dun Rappaport, Esq.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
K. JOHNSTONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Bryant Thomas Tremblay moves to
reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision to deny his
application for Social Security disability insurance
benefits, under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 423. (Doc. No. 8). The Acting Commissioner, in
turn, moves for an order affirming her decision. (Doc. No.
10). Those motions are before this magistrate judge for a
report and recommendation. For the reasons that follow, the
decision of the Acting Commissioner, as announced by the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) should be
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). “Substantial-evidence
review is more deferential than it might sound to the lay
ear: though certainly ‘more than a scintilla' of
evidence is required to meet the benchmark, a preponderance
of evidence is not.” Purdy v. Berryhill, 887 F.3d 7, 13
(1st Cir. 2018) (quoting Bath Iron Works Corp. v. U.S.
Dep't of Labor, 336 F.3d 51, 56 (1st Cir. 2003)).
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).
Ultimately, the court “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 Tremblay's request for benefits. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520. After determining that he met
the Social Security Act's insured status requirements and
had not engaged substantial gainful activity after the
alleged onset of his disability on December 31, 2015, see 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq., 416.971 et seq., the
ALJ analyzed the severity of Tremblay's impairments. At
this second step, the ALJ concluded that Tremblay had the
following severe impairments: bipolar disorder and panic
disorder with agoraphobia (Admin. R. at 13-14).
third step, the ALJ found that Tremblay's severe
impairments did not meet or “medically equal” the
severity of one of the impairments listed in the Social
Security regulations. (Id. at 14); see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526.
reviewing the medical evidence of record, medical opinions,
and Tremblay's own statements, the ALJ concluded that
Tremblay retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but
with the following non-exertional limitations:
The claimant is capable of simple routine tasks in two hour
blocks, but no fast past (sic) production standards. The
claimant can adapt to occasional changes in the work setting
and engage in occasional decision making. The claimant should
only have occasional interaction with the public, coworkers
(Id. at 15).
found that, limited in this manner, Tremblay would not be
able to perform his past relevant work. (Id. at 22).
The ALJ found, however, that Tremblay could perform other
jobs that exist in the national economy, such as housekeeping
and cleaning, garment sorter, and flagger. (Id. at
23-24). The ALJ accordingly found that Tremblay was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act during
the relevant time period. (Id. at 24); 20 C.F.R.
challenges the ALJ's decision on two grounds: 1) that the
ALJ erroneously evaluated opinion evidence in formulating his
RFC; and 2) that the ALJ erroneously evaluated Tremblay's
testimony regarding his symptoms and ...