United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Lance Tillinghast, Esq., Rami M. Vanegas, Esq.
A. DiClerico, Jr, United States District Judge.
Duchesne seeks review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
of the decision of the Acting Commissioner that denied her
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II.
In support, she contends that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in weighing the medical opinion
evidence, which caused him to assess an erroneous residual
functional capacity. The Acting Commissioner moves to affirm.
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 if
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, when “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.
Duchesne applied for disability benefits, alleging an amended
disability onset date of June 3, 2015, when she was
thirty-six years old. She had previously worked as a teacher,
a cashier, a waitress, a police officer, a photo developer,
and a sandblaster/graphic designer.
Duchesne nor the Acting Commissioner include information
about the record evidence of Duchesne's mental or
physical medical treatment in their factual statements.
Instead, both factual statements summarize the administrative
proceedings and the opinions provided in the record.
Therefore, the background includes nothing about what
treatment, if any, Duchesne may have had for mental or
the Disability Determination Services denied Duchesne's
application, she requested a hearing before an ALJ. At the
first hearing, Duchesne's representative requested
consultative examinations. Therefore, the hearing ended.
hearing was held on February 28, 2017. During that hearing
Duchesne asked to amend her alleged disability onset date.
That request was granted, and the hearing ended.
hearing was held on July 23, 2017. Dr. John Kwock, a board
certified orthopedic surgeon testified to give his opinion
about Duchesne's claimed orthopedic impairments. That
hearing was continued to allow a psychologist, Billings
Fuess, Ph.D., time to review Duchesne's records. A fourth
hearing was held on February 1, 2018, during which Dr. Fuess,
Dr. Charles Cooke, and a vocational expert
issued a decision on February 28, 2018, finding that Duchesne
was not disabled. The ALJ found that Duchesne had severe
impairments due to degenerative disc disease in her lumbar
and cervical spine, fibromyalgia, small fiber neuropathy,
anxiety/PTSD, depression, and a somatoform disorder. Based on
opinions provided by Dr. Kwock, Dr. Cooke, Dr. Loeser, Dr.
Williams, and Dr. Fuess the ALJ determined that Duchesne had
the residual functional capacity to do light work with some
postural and activity limitations and with limitations to a
low stress environment, only occasional interaction with the
general public, and needing a non-critical supervisor.
Although the ALJ found that Duchesne was unable to perform
any of her past work, he found that she could do other work
as shown by the vocational expert's testimony. The
Appeals Council denied her request for review.
record includes opinion evidence from Duchesne's treating
physician, Warren Chin, D.O.; her treating psychologist,
Cheryl Bildner, Ph.D.; consultant physicians, John Kwock,
M.D., Charles Cooke, M.D., Peter Loeser, M.D.; James
Williams, M.D.; and a consultant psychologist, Billings
primary care physician, Dr. Chin, is an osteopath. Dr. Chin
provided a Physical Impairment Medical Source Statement on
February 23, 2017. He stated that Duchesne had been diagnosed
with fibromyalgia and that she suffered from severe pain. On
the form, Dr. Chin checked the box showing that pain would
rarely interfere with Duchense's ability to work but then
checked boxes that she had very limited ability to walk,
stand, and sit, ...