United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge.
Vieira filed a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance
and Supplemental Security Income. Her claim was denied
initially, and upon reconsideration. Thereafter, Ms. Vieira
appeared before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
for a hearing who denied her claim. ECF No. 12 at 23-32. Ms.
Vieira is now seeking judicial review of the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2015).
Vieira was 45 years old at the time of her onset of
disability. She completed the eleventh grade. She previously
worked as a cashier at a casino and a marker at a novelty
factory. Her disabilities include: (1) cervical degenerative
disc disease; (2) right shoulder degenerative joint
disease?' (3) obesity; (4) major depressive disorder; and
(5) post-traumatic stress disorder. ECF No. 12 at 3.
Vieira resides in a townhouse with her twin children, ages
19. ECF No. 12-2 at 142. On a typical day, she wakes up at
5:00 a.m., makes coffee, and sits on the couch for the
majority of the day. Id. at 151. She does not read
or use the computer and drives approximately once per week.
Id. at 154. Her children perform the household
chores including cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry.
Id. at 152. Often Ms. Vieira stays in her pajamas
all day and her children have to encourage her to shower.
Id. at 158.
Vieira suffers from chronic pain in the right side of her
neck/back that radiates into the right shoulder and down the
right arm because of a work-related injury. ECF No. 12-1 at
40. Subsequently, Ms. Vieira received treatment from Dr.
David J. DiSanto, who evaluated her injury and determined
that the injury caused her to remain out of work with a
partial or temporary total disability. Occupational
physicians at Corporate Care also treated Ms. Vieira and
determined that she was capable of returning to
"modified duty" work.
addition, Ms. Vieira has received treatment from a
psychiatrist, Dr. Maria Gonzalez, and a therapist, Ms. Cecile
Tetreault, for her depression and anxiety issues.
Additionally, prior to the ALJ's decision, state agency
consultants assessed Ms. Vieira.
found that Ms. Vieira was not disabled under sections 216(i)
and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. The ALJ applied the
standard five-step sequential evaluation process for
determining whether an individual is disabled. The ALJ found
that although Ms. Vieira's impairments are severe, she
does not have an impairment or combination of impairments
that meet or medically equals the severity of one of the
listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Further, the ALJ found that Ms. Vieira has the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) and is
capable of performing her past relevant work. Thus, the ALJ
concluded that Ms. Vieira was not under a disability as
defined in the Social Security Act, from the date she filed
her application through the date of the ALJ's decision.
review of Social Security administrative determinations is
authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (1994)."
Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2001). A
district court's role in reviewing the Commissioner's
decision is limited. Although questions of law are reviewed
de novo, "[t]he 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). The term "substantial evidence" is
"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.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The
determination of substantiality must be made upon an
evaluation of the record as a whole. Ortiz v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st
Cir. 1991). In reviewing the record, the Court must avoid
reinterpreting the evidence or otherwise substituting its own
judgment for that of the Secretary. The resolution of
conflicts in the evidence is for the Commissioner, not the
courts. Rodriguez v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981) (citing
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399 (1971)).
Vieira raises three issues on appeal: (i) the ALJ improperly
considered evidence of Ms. Vieira's Global Assessment
Functioning (GAF) scores; (2) the ALJ erred in evaluating the
record medical opinion evidence! and (3) the ALJ failed to
follow the proper standards for evaluating credibility. ECF
No. 10 at 3. The Court will address each issue in turn.
record contains GAF scores assigned to Ms. Vieira between
thirty-five and fifty-five. The ALJ gave less weight to the
doctors who calculated the scores between thirty-five and
fifty because those assessments represented only temporary
short-term exacerbations in symptoms, which improved in short
periods. In her appeal, Ms. Vieira ...