United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Donna L. Fields
Andrew Saul,  Commissioner, Social Security Administration
N. LAPLANTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Fields moves to reverse the decision of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) to deny her application
for Social Security disability insurance benefits, or DIB,
under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §
423. The Commissioner moves for an order affirming the
decision. For the reasons that follow, the decision of the
SSA, as announced by the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), is affirmed.
Scope of Review
scope of judicial review of the SSA’s decision is as
The [district] court shall have power 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. The findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However, the court “must
uphold a denial of social security disability benefits unless
‘the [Commissioner] has committed a legal or factual
error in evaluating a particular claim.’”
Manso-Pizarro v. Sec’y of HHS, 76 F.3d 15, 16
(1st Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (quoting Sullivan v.
Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 885 (1989)).
the standard of review that applies when an applicant claims
that an SSA adjudicator made a factual error,
[s]ubstantial-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. Bath Iron
Works Corp. v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, 336 F.3d 51,
56 (1st Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Rather, “[a 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 [his] conclusion.”
Rodriguez v. Sec’y of Health & Human
Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981) (per curiam).
Purdy v. Berryhill, 887 F.3d 7, 13 (1st Cir. 2018).
addition, “‘the drawing of permissible inference
from evidentiary facts [is] the prime responsibility of the
[Commissioner], ’ and ‘the resolution of
conflicts in the evidence and the determination of the
ultimate question of disability is for [him], not for the
doctors or for the courts.’” Id.
(quoting Rodriguez, 647 F.2d at 222). Thus, the
court “must uphold the [Commissioner’s]
conclusion, even if the record arguably could justify a
different conclusion, so long as it is supported by
substantial evidence.” Tsarelka v. Sec’y of
HHS, 842 F.2d 529, 535 (1st Cir. 1988) (per curiam).
was born in 1960. The date on which she was last insured for
DIB, i.e., her DLI, is September 30, 2010.
November of 2006, Fields had an x-ray of her cervical spine.
In his report on the results, Dr. Robert Stevens wrote:
Mild degenerative change is present at the C5-6 level with
mild osteophytic spurring at ¶ 5-6 and C6-7.
There is, however, no abnormal subluxation or erosion.
Transcript (hereinafter “Tr.”) 563. Dr. Stevens made
no diagnosis, and Fields identifies no medical record that
reports a diagnosis based upon Dr. Stevens’ 2006 x-ray
October of 2014, Fields applied for DIB. She claimed that she
had been disabled since September 30, 2005, as a result of
anxiety, inability to focus, vision issues, feeling lost and
hopeless, depression, four herniated discs, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoporosis, osteopenia,
ulcers, asthma, and alcoholism in remission.
initial review, a state-agency consulting physician, Dr.
Archibald Green, found that for the physical impairments that
Fields claimed, there was insufficient medical evidence from
the period prior to her DLI to evaluate her claim. Based in
part on Dr. Green’s finding, the SSA denied
reconsideration, another state-agency consulting physician,