United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Teri Mazonson (“Ms. Mazonson” or
“Claimant”) brings this action pursuant to
section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying her claim for Social
Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits.
Currently pending is Ms. Mazonson's motion to reverse the
Commissioner's decision denying her disability benefits
[ECF No. 15]. For the reasons described herein, the Court
finds that, although the ALJ failed to comply with the
requirement of SSR 83-20 to have a medical advisor testify
regarding the date of onset, the error in this case was
harmless. Therefore, the Court DENIES Ms.
Mazonson's motion to reverse and remand.
Statutory and Regulatory Framework: Five-Step Process to
Evaluate Disability Claims
Social Security Administration is the federal agency charged
with administering both the Social Security disability
benefits program, which provides disability insurance for
covered workers, and the Supplemental Security Income
program, which provides assistance for the indigent aged and
disabled.” Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 5
(1st Cir. 2001) (citing 42 U.S.C. §§ 423, 1381a).
Social Security Act (the “Act”) provides that an
individual shall be considered to be “disabled”
if he or she is:
unable 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 that
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); see also 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). The disability must be severe, such that
the claimant is unable to do his or her previous work or any
other substantial gainful activity that exists in the
national economy. See 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905.
evaluating a disability claim under the Act, the Commissioner
uses a five-step process, which the First Circuit has
explained as follows:
All five steps are not applied to every applicant, as the
determination may be concluded at any step along the process.
The steps are: 1) if the applicant is engaged in substantial
gainful work activity, the application is denied; 2) if the
applicant does not have, or has not had within the relevant
time period, a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the application is denied; 3) if the impairment
meets the conditions for one of the “listed”
impairments in the Social Security regulations, then the
application is granted; 4) if the applicant's
“residual functional capacity” is such that he or
she can still perform past relevant work, then the
application is denied; 5) if the applicant, given his or her
residual functional capacity, education, work experience, and
age, is unable to do any other work, the application is
Seavey, 276 F.3d at 5 (citing 20 C.F.R. §
Mazonson filed her application for SSDI benefits on June 21,
2012. [R. 111]. She alleged that she became disabled on
December 1, 2007, due to multiple sclerosis and depression.
[R. 124]. Her date last insured was December 31, 2007. [R.
Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied
Ms. Mazonson's application for SSDI benefits on August
14, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on November 1, 2012.
[R. 54, 65]. Thereafter, Ms. Mazonson requested an
administrative hearing [R. 74], and a hearing took place
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Stephen
C. Fulton on October 29, 2013. [R. 21]. Ms. Mazonson, who was
represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the
hearing. [R. 21- 22]. On December 26, 2013, the ALJ issued a
decision finding that Ms. Mazonson was not disabled. [R. 7].
The SSA Appeals Council denied Ms. Mazonson's Request for
Review on May 14, 2015 [R. 1]. On July 19, 2015, Ms. Mazonson
filed a timely complaint with this Court, seeking review of
the Commissioner's decision pursuant to section 205(g) of
the Act. [ECF No. 1].
Mazonson was born on July 22, 1972. [R. 111]. She has been
married to Adam Mazonson since 1999, and they have two
children. [R. 112]. Ms. Mazonson currently lives in Canton,
Massachusetts. [ECF No. 1]. She has a college degree and a
law degree. [R. 23-25].
Mazonson worked as a lawyer from approximately 1998-2000, and
then as a consulting real estate lawyer in approximately
2003. [R. 132]. She briefly operated a day care business in
approximately 2005. [R. 36, 132]. She also worked for the
Town of Canton as a substitute teacher and a children's
librarian in 2010 and 2011. [R. 28, 132].
to the Expiration of Claimant's Insured Status
medical evidence submitted by Ms. Mazonson begins in August
1996, when she sought treatment after tripping over a blanket
while walking down the stairs. [R. 222]. Ms. Mazonson
presented at New England Baptist Medical Center with pain and
severe swelling in her right ankle. Id. After
imaging studies ruled out the possibility of dislocation or
fracture, Ms. Mazonson was discharged to outpatient care.
Id. On November 28, 1999, Ms. Mazonson was admitted
to the same hospital with complaints of a severe headache.