United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
Richard Allan Britt, Plaintiff: Tricia M. Jacobs, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Thomas Libbos, Springfield, MA.
Carolyn W. Colvin Commissioner of Social Security
Administration, Defendant: Karen L. Goodwin, LEAD ATTORNEY,
United States Attorney's Office, Springfield, MA.
Social Security Administration, Interested Party: Thomas D.
Ramsey, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel, Social
Security Administration, Boston, MA.
OF DECISION AND ORDER
S. HILLMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Of The Case
Richard Allan Britt (" Britt" or "
Plaintiff" ) has brought this action against the
Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, as Commissioner of Social
Security Administration (" Commissioner" ) seeking
judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner
denying his application for Social Security Disability
Insurance benefits (" SSDI benefits" ). The
Commissioner denied Britt's application on the grounds
that he was not under a disability within the meaning of the
Social Security Act (" Act" ), for the relevant
time period. Britt has filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings in which he argues that the Administrative Law
Judge (" ALJ" ) erred by failing to assess
additional physical limitations on the assessed Physical
Residual Functional Capacity, and by not calling on the
services of a medical advisor. The Commissioner has file
filed a motion for an order affirming the decision on the
grounds that the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record.
filed an application for SSDI benefits on January 3, 2011,
alleging disability due to high blood pressure, diabetes,
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, hormone imbalance, coronary
atherosclerosis, and an injury to his left leg. (
Tr., at p. 11, 138-44, 172). In his SSI application,
Britt stated that he became unable to work as of January 1,
2009. ( Id., at 11, 138). On April 28, 2011, the
Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) found that
Britt was " not disabled" and denied his
application. ( Id., at pp. 78-80). After his request
was denied, Britt requested hearing before an ALJ which was
held on October 23, 2012. ( Id., at pp. 86-89, 90).
On November 30, 2012, the ALJ ruled that Britt was " not
disabled." ( Id., at pp. 11-17). On November
13, 2013, the SSA Appeals Council notified Britt of its
denial of his request for review and therefore, the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the SSA. (
Id., at p. 1).
for Entitlement to SSDI Benefits
order to qualify for SSDI benefits, a claimant must
demonstrate that he is disabled within the meaning of the
Act. The Act defines the term " disability" 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 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). The impairment(s) must be severe enough to
prevent the claimant from performing not only his past work,
but any substantial gainful work that exists in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1560(c)(1). Furthermore, to be entitled to SSDI, a
claimant is eligible for benefits where s/he demonstrates
that s/he was disabled on or before the date before which
s/he was last insured. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(A). The
claimant has the burden of establishing that s/he was
disabled before expiration of his/her insured status.
Brunson v. Astrue, 387 Fed.Appx. 459 (5th Cir.
applicant's impairment is evaluated under a five-step
analysis set forth in the regulations promulgated under the
statute. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The First Circuit has
described the analytical sequence as follows:
First, is the claimant currently employed? If he is, the
claimant is automatically considered not disabled.
Second, does the claimant have a severe impairment . . .
mean[ing] an impairment 'which significantly limits his
or his physical or mental capacity to perform basic
work-related functions[?]' If the claimant does not have
an impairment of at least this degree of severity, he is
automatically considered not disabled.
Third, does the claimant have an impairment equivalent to a
specific list of impairments contained in [Appendix 1 of the
Social Security regulations]? If the claimant has an
impairment of so serious a degree of severity, the claimant
is automatically found disabled.
These first three tests are " threshold" tests. If
the claimant is working or has the physical or mental
capacity to perform " basic work-related
functions," he is automatically considered not disabled.
If he has an Appendix 1-type impairment, he is automatically
considered disabled. In either case, his claim is determined
at the " threshold." If, however, his ability to
perform basic work-related functions is impaired
significantly (test 2) but there is no " Appendix
1" impairment (test 3), the SSA goes on to ask the
Fourth, does the claimant's impairments prevent him from
performing work of the sort he has done in the past? If not,
he is not disabled. If so, the agency asks the fifth
Fifth, does the claimant's impairment prevent him from
performing other work of the sort found in the economy? If
so, he is disabled; if not, he is not disabled.
Goodermote v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
690 F.2d 5, 6-7 (1st Cir. 1982).
burden of proof is on the applicant as to the first four
steps of the analysis. See 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(5)(A) (" An individual shall not be considered to
be under a disability unless he furnishes such medical and
other evidence of the existence thereof as the [ALJ] may
require." ). At the fifth step of the analysis, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant
is capable of performing jobs available in the national
economy. Freeman v. Barnhart, 274 F.3d 606, 608 (1st
Cir. 2001). In making that determination, the ALJ must assess
the claimant's RFC in combination with vocational
factors, including the claimant's age, education, and
work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).
Educational, Occupational and Personal History
date last insured was December 13, 2010. ( Id., at
pp. 13, 168). He was 60 years old on January 9, 2009, the
onset date of disability, and 62 years old on his date last
insured. ( Id., at p. 168). He is a high-school
graduate who completed one or two years of college and has
past relevant work as a construction supervisor. (
Id., at pp. 23, 51, 173). Britt was part-owner of a
drywall business for the last three years that he worked. (
Id., at p. 26). In that capacity, he supervised two
employees and that he lifted a lot of weight. ( Id.
). He began receiving Social Security retirement benefits at
age 62. ( Id., at pp. 28-29).
time of the hearing, Britt testified as to the following
activities. He lives with his son, daughter-in-law, and three
grandchildren. ( Id., at p. 24). He drives and goes
to the store to shop for himself and drives to see his other
children from his second marriage. ( Id., at p. 25).
He sees them three or four days a week--he often babysits
them and takes them to the store or movies. ( Id. ).
He is able to cook for himself; his daughter-in-law does his
laundry. (Tr. 40). He dresses himself, but has some
difficulty putting on his socks and shoes. ( Id. ).
further testified that for the two years before the hearing,
he could comfortably walk about two steps and lift/carry
about two gallons of milk. ( Id. ), at pp. 35-36).
He had been a power weight lifter until his early 40s and at
the time of the hearing, worked out on a universal machine
two or three times a week for twenty minutes at a time. (
Id., at pp. 33-34).