United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Mary K appeals the decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration denying her benefits.
For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Ms. K's
motion to reverse and/or remand and DENIES the
Commissioner's motion to affirm.
is a fifty-four-year-old divorced woman who lives in her
brother's house and receives food stamps for sustenance.
She has completed the ninth grade and has not obtained a GED.
Since at least 2002, Ms. K did work at a table in the
shipping department of a jewelry company. Her onset of
disability began in November 2013, when she had to leave work
because she would often fall asleep unexpectedly. She also
suffers from anxiety and depression.
many years, Ms. K sought various medical treatments for
migraines, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and
narcolepsy. She treated with internists, a licensed clinical
social worker, a psychologist, and a
psychiatrist. Her internist diagnosed her with
"chronic fatigue syndrome, depressive disorder,
insomnia, malaise and fatigue, [and] narcolepsy." Ms. K
reported falling asleep four times or more per day, despite
getting a full night's sleep. She would even fall asleep
while standing up. She was unable to maintain employment.
filed a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance and
Supplemental Security Income. The Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") denied her claim determining that Ms. K has
no physical or mental impairments that she considered severe
at Step 2 of the sequential evaluation. The Appeals Council
affirmed the decision and Ms. K appealed to this Court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court's role in reviewing the Commissioner's
decision is limited. "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). The determination of substantiality
must be made upon an evaluation of the record as a whole. The
Court "must uphold the Secretary'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 Sews., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981). The
Supreme Court has defined substantial evidence as "more
than a mere scintilla." Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).
reviewing the record, the Court must avoid reinterpreting the
evidence or otherwise substituting its own judgment for that
of the Secretary. See Colon v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 877 F.2d 148, 153 (1st Cir. 1989). The
"resolution of conflicts in the evidence is for the
Secretary, not the courts." Irlanda Ortiz
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765,
769 (1st Cir. 1991).
First Circuit has stated that courts should ensure 'a
just outcome' in Social Security disability claims."
Santa v. Astrue, 924 F.Supp.2d 386, 391 (D.R.I.
2013) (quoting Pelletier v. Sec'y of Health, Educ.
& Welfare, 525 F.2d 158, 161 (1st Cir. 1975)).
"[T]he Social Security Act is to be construed liberally
to effectuate its general purpose of easing the insecurity of
life." Rodriguez v. Celebrezze, 349 F.2d 494,
496 (1st Cir. 1965); see also Cohen v. Sec'y of
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524,
531 (6th Cir. 1992) ("[I]t is well to bear in mind that
'[t]he Social Security Act is a remedial statute which
must be "liberally applied."'" (second
alteration in original) (quoting Marcus v. Califano,
615 F.2d 23, 29 (2d Cir. 1979))); Slessinger v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 835 F.2d 937, 943 (1st
Cir. 1987) ("[T]he Social Security Act should be
construed liberally in order to further its remedial
purposes." (citing Cunningham v. Harris, 658
F.2d 239, 243 (4th Cir.1981))). The Cunningham court
[W]e are also bound to interpret the Social Security Act as a
program of social insurance on which people can rely to
provide for themselves and their dependents. Claimants are
the beneficiaries of insured wage earners, not recipients of
government gratuities, and are entitled to a broad
construction of the Act. In practical terms, when a Social
Security Act provision can be reasonably interpreted in favor
of one seeking benefits, it should be so construed.
658 F.2d at 243 (citations omitted).
first asserts that the ALJ erred by "failing to find
that any of [Ms. K's] medically detei'minable
impairments were 'severe' as that term is used at
Step 2 of the Sequential Evaluation." ECF No. 11-1 at 1.
She details that her narcolepsy was a medically determinable
impairment and that her anxiety and depression were severe
impairments. Second, she asserts that substantial evidence
does not support the ALJ's findings regarding the weight
assigned to the opinion evidence. Notably, the ALJ rejected
all of the examining source opinions, including that of the