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Guyette v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 14, 2019

Earl Willis Guyette, Jr.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security



         Earl Guyette 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 supplemental security income under Title XVI. Guyette moves to reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision, and the Acting Commissioner moves to affirm. For the reasons discussed below, the decision of the Acting Commissioner is reversed, and the case is remanded to the Acting Commissioner for further proceedings.


         In reviewing the final decision of the Acting Commissioner in a social security case, the court “is limited to determining whether the [Administrative Law Judge] 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 Administrative Law Judge'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 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) (internal citation omitted). “Rather, the court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support her conclusion.” Id.

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of social security benefits, the ALJ follows a five-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The claimant bears the burden through the first four steps of proving that his impairments preclude him from working. Purdy, 887 F.3d at 9. At the fifth step, the Acting Commissioner has the burden of showing that jobs exist which the claimant can do. Heggarty v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 990, 995 (1st Cir. 1991).


         A detailed statement of the facts can be found in the parties' Joint Statement of Material Facts (doc. no. 13). The court provides a brief summary of the case here.

         Guyette applied for supplemental security income on March 6, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of September 29, 2014, when he was 33 years old. He alleged a disability due to depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder (“ADD”), hyperactivity disorder (“HD”), and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). At the time of his alleged disability onset date, he had obtained his GED, and had worked as a mechanic, a roofer, an HVAC installer, a painter, a factory worker, a nursing home worker, and a laundromat worker.

         I. Medical Evidence

         The medical evidence in the administrative record appears to start with Guyette's emergency treatment and subsequent admission at Elliot Hospital on November 22, 2004, because of an overdose. The report notes that Guyette's infant son had died a month before of SIDS. He was diagnosed at that time with an adjustment disorder, substance abuse, and a history of ADD. Guyette was treated at Concord Hospital in June 2006 following another suicide attempt.

         The parties' summary of the medical evidence begins with Guyette's appointment with his primary care physician, Dr. Rory Richardson, on September 29, 2014. Guyette was seen because of “worsening mood.” He reported that he had been fired from his job because of his poor attitude. He reported having trouble sleeping. He was crying and emotional during the interview. Dr. Richardson noted depression and added medication. He also recommended counseling. Dr. Richardson continued to see Guyette during the relevant period.

         Ann Pike, Ph.D., did a consultative examination in January 2015. She found that Guyette had hyper motor activity, no evidence of a thought disorder, rational speech, and good eye contact although he was tearful. She also found that he was depressed with flashbacks and intrusive memories, was properly oriented, had average intelligence, and impaired memory.

         On July 6, 2015, JoAnne Coyle, Ph.D., a state agency psychologist, found that Guyette could understand and remember simple instructions, could sustain attention and concentration for simple tasks, and maintain effort for two-hour periods in a work day with some degree of self-pacing. He could have infrequent and brief interaction with the public, participate in typical interactions with co-workers and supervisors while doing simple nonsocial tasks, and adapt to minor changes in routine.

         From July 2015 to July 2016, Guyette received counseling at The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester with Laima Niemi, M.Ed., and Amanda Hapenny, ARPN. The records show that Guyette was oriented, but his mood was anxious and depressed, and his affect was restricted. He was late and missed ...

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