United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
J. McAuliffe United States District Judge.
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), claimant,
Tina Marie Ramsey, moves to reverse or vacate the
Commissioner's decision denying her applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act and Supplemental Security Income Benefits under
Title XVI. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423, 1381-1383c
(collectively, the “Act”). The Commissioner
objects and moves for an order affirming his decision.
reasons discussed, claimant's motion is denied, and the
Commissioner's motion is granted.
September of 2015, claimant filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”), alleging that she was
disabled and had been unable to work since January 3, 2015.
Claimant was 37 years old at the time and had acquired
sufficient quarters of coverage to remain insured through
December of 2019. Claimant's applications were denied and
she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
of 2017, claimant, her attorney,  and an impartial vocational
expert appeared before an ALJ, who considered claimant's
applications de novo. After obtaining additional,
post-hearing evidence, the ALJ issued her written decision,
concluding that claimant was not disabled, as that term is
defined in the Act, at any time prior to the date of her
decision. Claimant then requested review by the Appeals
Council. That request was denied. Accordingly, the ALJ's
denial of claimant's applications for benefits became the
final decision of the Commissioner, subject to judicial
claimant filed a timely action in this court, asserting that
the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence. Claimant then filed a “Motion for Order
Reversing Decision of the Commissioner” (document no.
7). In response, the Commissioner filed a “Motion for
an Order to Affirm the Commissioner's Decision”
(document no. 9). Those motions are pending.
detailed factual background can be found in claimant's
statement of facts (document no. 7-2) and the
Commissioner's statement of facts (document no. 8). Those
facts relevant to the disposition of this matter are
discussed as appropriate.
“Substantial Evidence” and Deferential Review.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court is empowered “to
enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without
remanding the cause for a rehearing.” Factual findings
and credibility determinations made by the Commissioner are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). See also Irlanda
Ortiz v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 955
F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938). Importantly, then, it is something less than a
preponderance of the evidence. So, the possibility of drawing
two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not
prevent an administrative agency's finding from being
supported by substantial evidence. See Consolo v. Federal
Maritime Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966). See also
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
Parties' Respective Burdens.
individual seeking SSI and/or DIB benefits is disabled under
the Act if he or she is unable “to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). See also 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act places a heavy initial
burden on the claimant to establish the existence of a
disabling impairment. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 146-47 (1987); Santiago v. Secretary of Health &
Human Services, 944 F.2d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1991). To
satisfy that burden, the claimant must prove, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that her impairment prevents
her from performing her former type of work. See
Manso-Pizarro v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 76 F.3d 15, 17 (1st Cir. 1996); Gray v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 369, 371 (1st Cir. 1985). If the
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform her previous
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
there are other jobs in the national economy that she can
perform, in light of her age, education, and prior work
experience. See Vazquez v. Secretary of Health &
Human Services, 683 F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1982). See also
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512, 404.1560, 416.912, and
assessing a disability claim, the Commissioner considers both
objective and subjective factors, including: (1) objective
medical facts; (2) the claimant's subjective claims of
pain and disability, as supported by the claimant's
testimony or that of other witnesses; and (3) the
claimant's educational background, age, and work
experience. See, e.g., Avery v. Secretary of Health &
Human Services, 797 F.2d 19, 23 (1st Cir. 1986);
Goodermote v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 690 F.2d 5, 6 (1st Cir. 1982). Ultimately, a
claimant is disabled only if her:
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous
work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which [she]
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for [her], or
whether [she] would be hired if [she] applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). See also 42 U.S.C. §
those principles in mind, the court reviews claimant's
motion to reverse and the ...