United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG, District Judge.
Miguel Santiago ("Santiago") brings this action against Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency"), seeking reversal of the Commissioner's determination that Santiago is not entitled to disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act") and remand for the immediate calculation of benefits.
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Santiago filed applications for Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security Supplemental Income on January 26, 2011. Mem. Law Supp. Pl.'s Mot. Reverse Decision Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin. ("Pl.'s Br.") 3, ECF No. 17. The Agency denied these applications on May 6, 2011. Id. Santiago filed a request for reconsideration, which the Agency denied on November 14, 2011. Id. Santiago requested a hearing, which was held in Boston on November 27, 2012, before a hearing officer. Id. The hearing resulted in an unfavorable decision, and Santiago requested a review of the decision with the Agency's Appeals Council on December 21, 2012. Id. The Appeals Council declined to overturn the hearing officer's decision on November 19, 2013. Id.
Santiago filed a complaint against the Commissioner in United States District Court in the District of Massachusetts on January 16, 2014, Compl., ECF No. 1, which the Commissioner answered. Answer, ECF No. 12. On October 23, 2014, Santiago moved to reverse the decision of the Commissioner. Mot. Reverse Decision Comm'r Soc. Sec. ("Pl.'s Mot. Reverse"), ECF No. 16. Santiago filed a brief in support of this motion on the same day. Pl.'s Br. On December 3, 2014, the Commissioner filed a motion for an order to affirm the Commissioner's decision along with a brief in support of the motion. Def.'s Mot. Order Affirm Comm'r's Decision ("Def.'s Mot. Affirm"), ECF No. 20; Mem. Law Supp. Def.'s Mot. Affirm Comm'r's Decision ("Def.'s Br."), ECF No. 21.
III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Santiago was born on September 29, 1971, and is currently 43 years old. Social Security Administration R./Tr. ("Admin. R.") 35, ECF No. 13. Santiago graduated from high school in Puerto Rico, Pl.'s Br. 4, and is unable to communicate in English, Admin. R. 24. Santiago has a good work history, which includes a variety of jobs such as shipper, packer, asbestos removal worker, mail clerk, and a sales clerk. He was unable to work after he tore tendons in his left ankle while working at a warehouse in 2009. Id. at 34. The ankle was surgically repaired, but Santiago continued to experience pain and discomfort. Id. Santiago also had to undergo surgery on his right ankle for pain and discomfort. Id. Santiago has reported daily pain and paresthesia of both ankles, with his left ankle causing the most difficulty. Id. at 438. Additionally, Santiago underwent gastric bypass surgery and suffers from depression and anxiety. Id. at 18.
IV. LEGAL FRAMEWORK
A. Standard of Review
"[A] district court has the power to affirm, modify, or reverse a decision of the Commissioner, " pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Rivera v. Astrue, 814 F.Supp.2d 30, 33 (D. Mass. 2011). The First Circuit has explained that this requires a district court to affirm the Commissioner's findings if "a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support his conclusion.'" Id. (quoting Irlanda Ortiz v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991)). This Court must uphold the Commissioner's decision unless "the Secretary has committed a legal or factual error in evaluating a particular claim." Manso-Pizarro v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1996) (quoting Sullivan v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 885 (1989)). "[E]ven if the record arguably could justify a different conclusion, so long as it is supported by substantial evidence'" the Court must uphold the Commissioner's decision. Rivera, 814 F.Supp.2d at 33 (quoting Rodriguez Pagan v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 819 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1987)).
B. Disability Standard
In order to determine whether an applicant is disabled under the meaning of the Act, the Social Security Administration regulations dictate a five-step process the hearing officer must use. As this Court has summarized, the steps are:
(1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the impairment meets or medically equals an impairment listed under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the impairment prevents ...