United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
K. Johnstone United States Magistrate Judge.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Dori Leigh Sheehan moves to
reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision to deny her
application for Social Security disability insurance
benefits, under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 423. (Doc. No. 10). The Acting Commissioner, in
turn, moves for an order affirming her decision. (Doc. No.
12). 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 Social
Security Administration “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 Sheehan's request for benefits. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520. After determining that she
met the Social Security Act's insured status requirements
and had not engaged substantial gainful activity after the
alleged onset of his disability on April 5, 2012,
see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq., 416.971
et seq., the ALJ analyzed the severity of Sheehan's
impairments. At this second step, the ALJ concluded that
Sheehan had the following severe impairments: substance abuse
disorder, anxiety disorder and depressive disorder. Admin. R.
at 22; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). At the
third step, the ALJ found that Sheehan's severe
impairments did not meet or “medically equal” the
severity of one of the impairments listed in the Social
Security regulations. Id. at 23; see 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525-26, 416.920(d),
reviewing the medical evidence of record, medical opinions,
and Sheehan's statements and hearing testimony, the ALJ
concluded that Sheehan retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional
She is limited to routine work day to day that is not
fast-paced, defined as assembly lines, timed work, or work
with strict quotas. She is capable of work that includes no
more than occasional interaction with the general public and
no tandem tasks, meaning there would be no situation that
would result in another employee waiting for the claimant to
finish her task. The job should be located in the same work
location with few, if any, changes day to day.
Id. at 15.
found that, limited in this manner, Sheehan would not be able
to perform her past relevant work. Id. At 34. Based
on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ also found
that Sheehan could perform other jobs that exist in the
national economy, such as housekeeper, merchandise marker,
and office helper. Id. at 34-35. The ALJ accordingly
concluded that Sheehan was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act during the relevant time period.
Id. at 35; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g).
challenges the ALJ's decision on two grounds. First, she
asserts that the ALJ erroneously evaluated opinion evidence
in formulating her RFC. Next, she argues that the ALJ
erroneously evaluated Sheehan's testimony regarding her
symptoms and ...