United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
William E. Smith Chief Judge.
Judge Patricia A. Sullivan filed a Report and Recommendation
(“R. & R.”) (ECF No. 14) in this case,
recommending the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse
the Decision of the Commissioner (ECF No. 8) and grant
Defendant's Motion for an Order Affirming the
Commissioner's Decision (ECF No. 12).
objected to the R. & R. (ECF No. 15), pressing again his
argument that a case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,
Disastio v. Shalala, 47 F.3d 348, 349-350 (9th Cir.
1995), has a better view of the relationship between
vocational-expert testimony and a claimant's residual
functional capacity than that enunciated in a case from the
Sixth Circuit, Anderson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
406 Fed.Appx. 32, 36 (6th Cir. 2010), which was recently
followed by a court in the First Circuit, Foxworth v.
Colvin, 249 F.Supp.3d 585, 589-90 (D. Mass. 2017).
review of the arguments on both sides, the Court agrees with
the reasoning provided by Magistrate Judge Sullivan, and
therefore adopts her recommended disposition. Plaintiff's
Motion (ECF No. 8) is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion (ECF
No. 12) is GRANTED.
PATRICIA A. SULLIVAN, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Thomas P.'s
motion to reverse the Commissioner's decision denying
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”). Plaintiff claims that the Step-Five
finding of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
is erroneous because it relies on a significant misstatement
of the testimony of the Vocational Expert (“VE”)
regarding the number of jobs at the light exertion level
available in the national economy that Plaintiff could
perform based on his residual functional capacity of less
than the full range of light work. In light of that error,
Plaintiff further argues that the ALJ should have found
Plaintiff disabled under Medical-Vocational Guideline 201.14
beginning on the day when he turned 50 because, apart from
the light job tainted by error, the VE's testimony
established only jobs at the sedentary exertion level.
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (“Defendant”) has
filed a motion for an order affirming the Commissioner's
matter has been referred to me for preliminary review,
findings and recommended disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B). Having reviewed the record, I find that
the ALJ's findings are sufficiently supported by
substantial evidence and that his error in inflating the
number of available jobs at the light exertional level in the
national economy is harmless. Accordingly, I recommend that
Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse the Decision of the
Commissioner (ECF No. 8) be DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for an Order Affirming the Commissioner's Decision (ECF
No. 12) be GRANTED.
being disabled for several years ending in January 2011, Tr.
160, Plaintiff returned to work and, until February 2014, was
employed as a machine operator and maintenance/cleaner.
Id. Based on the instant application, which was
filed on September 23, 2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has
suffered from an array of severe impairments, including left
knee osteoarthritis, neuropathy, asthma, degenerative disc
disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, borderline
intellectual functioning and depression. Tr. 14. In a
decision that carefully analyzes the medical, opinion and
other evidence of record, the ALJ found that, throughout the
period in issue, Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than the full
range of light work in that he was found to be limited to
standing and walking “for about three hours in an
eight-hour workday, ” with only occasional pushing and
pulling with the left leg and with other limitations caused
by mental impairments and asthma. Tr. 17. Based on this RFC
and the VE's testimony, at Step Four, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff cannot perform his past relevant work. Tr. 22.
Then, at Step Five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled during the period in issue because his RFC permitted
him to make a successful adjustment to other work that exists
in sufficient numbers in the national economy, including one
unskilled light job (foot press operator) and several
unskilled sedentary jobs (assembler, packager, and
inspector). Tr. 22-23.
Standard of Review
Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla - that is, the
evidence must do more than merely create a suspicion of the
existence of a fact, and must include such relevant evidence
as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support
the conclusion. Ortiz v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991) (per curiam);
Rodriguez v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981); Brown v. Apfel,
71 F.Supp.2d 28, 30 (D.R.I. 1999). Once the Court concludes
that the decision is supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner must be affirmed, even if the Court would have
reached a contrary result as finder of fact. Rodriguez
Pagan v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 819
F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1987); see also Barnes v.
Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1991);
Lizotte v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
654 F.2d 127, 128 (1st Cir. 1981). The determination of
substantiality is based upon an evaluation of the record as a
whole. Brown, 71 F.Supp.2d at 30; see also
Frustaglia v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
829 F.2d 192, 195 (1st Cir. 1987); Parker v. Bowen,
793 F.2d 1177, 1180 (11th Cir. 1986) (court also must
consider evidence detracting from evidence on which
Commissioner relied). Thus, the Court's role in reviewing
the Commissioner's decision is limited. Brown,
71 F.Supp.2d at 30. The Court does not reinterpret the
evidence or otherwise substitute its own judgment for that of
the Commissioner. Id. at 30-31 (citing Colon v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 877 F.2d 148,
153 (1st Cir. 1989)). “[T]he resolution of conflicts in
the evidence is for the Commissioner, not the courts.”
Id. at 31 (citing Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 399 (1971)).