United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER (Dkt. Nos. 15 and 20)
MARK G. MASTROIANNI, District Judge.
This is an action for judicial review of a final decision by Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), regarding an individual's entitlement to Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) (referencing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Shirley Mims ("Plaintiff") asserts the Commissioner's decision denying her such benefits-memorialized in a May 23, 2013 decision of an administrative law judge ("ALJ")-is in error. She has filed a motion to reverse the judgment and the Commissioner has moved to affirm.
For the following reasons, the court will deny Plaintiff's motion (Dkt. No. 15) and will allow the Commissioner's motion to affirm (Dkt. No. 20).
Plaintiff was born on October 29, 1957. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") at 14.) She has a high school education, some college education, and her past employment includes work as a certified nurse's aide. (Id. at 17, 35-36.) She has a history of mental disorders including depression, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (Id. at 14, 384.) Plaintiff was 53 years old when she applied for SSI on July 6, 2011. (Id. at 12, 157.) Plaintiff claimed she was disabled beginning September 5, 2007 due to rheumatoid arthritis, brain damage, and depression. (Id. at 17, 184.)
After Plaintiff's application was denied both initially and upon reconsideration, she requested a hearing in front of an ALJ. (Id. at 7, 12.) The hearing took place on May 6, 2013, at which both Plaintiff and vocational expert ("VE") Erin Bailey testified. (Id. at 27-66.) Plaintiff testified she spent most of her time looking for work, wanted to have a job, and could work full-time as a janitor if it paid enough "to keep a roof over [her] head." (Id. at 43-44, 46-48.) Plaintiff also testified she cooks, cleans, dresses, and feeds herself, and attends church and drug meetings multiple times a week. (Id. at 52, 54.) In response to a hypothetical question posed by the ALJ, the VE testified that an individual with Plaintiff's age, education, and past work history-who was also limited to remembering and carrying out only simply instructions and had only occasional contact with other people-could perform work as a janitor. (Id. at 65.) The VE also testified that the position of janitor entails no more than occasional contact with others. (Id. at 66.) The ALJ issued a decision on May 23, 2013, finding Plaintiff was not disabled from July 6, 2011 through the date of that decision. (Id. at 9, 21.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the instant action, the Commissioner compiled the administrative record, and the parties submitted the cross-motions presently at issue.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The role of a district court reviewing an administrative law judge's decision is limited to determining whether the conclusion was supported by substantial evidence and based on the correct legal standard. See 42 U.S.C. § 1381(1)(3); Manso-Pizzarro v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1996). Substantial evidence means "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 and Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981) (citations omitted). Additionally, it is the Commissioner's responsibility to weigh conflicting evidence and decide issues of credibility. Id.
IV. DISABILITY STANDARD AND THE ALJ'S DECISION
Entitlement to SSI requires a showing of both disability and financial need on or after the date of the SSI application. See 42 U.S.C. § 1381a. Here, Plaintiff's financial need is not challenged.
The Social Security Act (the "Act") defines disability, in part, as the inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual is considered disabled under the Act,
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or ...