United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
ALICIA A. COVILL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
J. McComiell, Jr. United States District Judge.
instant matter is before the court under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), the Social Security Act, for judicial review of a
"final decision" of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration denying disability insurance benefits
for which Plaintiff Alicia A. Covill had applied. This matter
was referred to a United States Magistrate for preliminary
review, findings, and recommended disposition as to Ms.
Covill's motion to reverse and Ms. Colvin's motion
for an order affirming the Commissioner's decision.
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, (1976); 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(3). The Magistrate Judge recommended that Ms.
Covill's motion be denied, and that Ms. Colvin's
motion be granted. ECF No. 13. Ms. Covill has objected to
these findings and recommendations. The issue she presents to
this Court is whether substantial evidence exists on the
record to support the Commissioner's decision that she
failed to establish that she was under a disability.
Covill objects to the Report & Recommendation ("R
& R") and argues several errors in the record on
appeal. This Court's role in reviewing a disability
decision is limited because, although questions of law are
reviewed de novo, "[t]he findings of the Commissioner
... as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence,
shall be conclusive[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(2000).
"Substantial evidence" has been defined as
'"more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'" Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.LM.B., 305 U.S. 197,
229 (1938)). Upon review, the Court adopts the
Magistrate's recommendation and concludes that the
Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.
Covill levels three objections to the R&R. In short, she
argues that the ALJ and Magistrate Judge erred in 1)
inappropriately relying on GAF scores; 2) concluding that Ms.
Covill was not credible! and 3) making their Residual
Functional capacity ("RFC") assessment, The first
point of error involves a page missing from the record and
the Magistrate Judge's consideration of the treating
source and state agency opinions. As an initial matter, the
Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that the "missing
page" had no bearing in the outcome of this case. She
fully explored the significance (or the lack thereof) of this
missing page such that this Court finds that this point of
error needs no further exploration.
consideration of medical and other treating source opinions
is a more significant point, but ultimately does not move the
needle in Ms. Covill's favor. The Court finds that the
Magistrate Judge was correct to accept the ALJ's
evaluation of the medical opinions. The ALJ had before him
the opinions of Ms. Covill's treating providers, Dr.
Terry Mailhot and Ms. Janice Denuccio, RNP and that of State
agency consulting physician, Dr. Stephen Clifford. The
Magistrate Judge found that the ALJ's decision to give
"substantial weight" to the opinions of the
consulting physician was supported by the record and in
keeping with applicable law. Ms. Covill argues that the
Magistrate Judge unfairly based her medical source opinion
evaluation on the Global Assessment of Functioning
("GAF") number that resulted from an initial intake
evaluation of Ms. Covill. However, it is clear from the R
& R that GAF scores were simply one of a number of
reasons the Magistrate Judge found supported the minimal
weight that the ALJ gave to the treating sources. Even
disregarding the GAF scores, there was substantial evidence
to support the ALJ's findings. Ms. Covill has shown no
reversible error in the ALJ's decision to credit Dr.
Clifford's opinions over those of Dr. Mailhot and Nurse
Denuccio. The Magistrate Judge found no error and neither
does this Court.
the Magistrate Judge gave appropriate deference to the
ALJ's determination of credibility. The ALJ provided
specific and adequate reasons that he discredited Ms.
Covill's testimony. Da Rosa v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 803 F.2d 24, 26 (1st Cir. 1986). The
ALJ properly considered Ms. Covill's subjective
complaints of persistent side effects that were not supported
in the record, her activities of daily living that were
inconsistent with her statements, her mental health exams
that showed no significant abnormalities, and her irregular
and inconsistent mental health treatment belied her reports
of overwhelming anxiety. The ALJ also observed her demeanor
at the hearing, reporting that she was alert, pleasant and
calm. The Magistrate Judge found that these reasons were
grounded in the evidence and this Court agrees. There was
sufficient evidence to conclude that Ms. Covill's
subjective complaints were not supported by the record;
therefore, Ms. Covill's second claim of error fails.
Ms. Covill argues that the evidence does not support parts of
the RFC finding because, despite placing more weight on Dr.
Clifford's opinions than on the treating providers'
opinions, the ALJ found her more socially limited than Dr.
Clifford did. This argument also fails upon review. The
Magistrate Judge analyzed the ALJ's RFC and correctly
concluded that even if it was error, it was a harmless one
and therefore does not support a remand. See Morris v.
Astrue, C.A. No. 11-625S, 2013 WL 1000326, at *16
(D.R.I. Feb. 1, 2013).
complete review of the entire record, motions, and briefings,
the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge issued a
well-supported R & R concluding that substantial evidence
supported the Administrative Law Judge's
("ALJ") decision. The Court, therefore, adopts the
R & R for the reasons stated therein. Therefore, for the
reason stated in the R & R of the Magistrate Judge, the
report is accepted, Ms, Covill's Motion to ...