United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Sorokin United States District Judge.
Nunes submitted a Title II application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits on September 18,
2012, claiming an alleged onset date of May 29, 2012. R. at
125. Nunes's claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration on August 16, 2013. Id. Nunes filed
a written request for a hearing on September 11, 2013, and
appeared and testified at the hearing on September 4, 2014.
Id. On September 24, 2014, the ALJ found at step one
that Nunes had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 29, 2012, R. at 127; at step two that Nunes had
multiple severe impairments, id.; at step three that
those impairments did not meet the definition of a severe
impairment or combination of impairments under the
regulations, R. at 129; at step four that Nunes's RFC
allowed for light work except that he was limited to standing
or walking at least six hours in an eight hour day, sitting
with normal breaks about six hours in an eight hour day,
could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and push
and pull with his left upper extremity only occasionally,
could never climb ropes, ladders and scaffolds, could
occasionally interact with the public, coworkers, and
supervisors, could perform simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks, and must avoid concentrated exposure to noise and
moderate exposure to vibrations, fumes, odors, dust, gases,
and poor ventilation, R. at 129-30; and at step five that
jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Nunes could perform, R. at 138.
Appeals Council granted Nunes's request for review on
March 3, 2016. R. at 5. On May 18, 2016, the Appeals Council
issued a decision correcting Nunes's date last insured to
December 31, 2014. R. at 5. The Appeals Council also found
that Nunes was under a disability beginning September 24,
2014, but was not disabled before that. R. at 8.
then filed this action seeking judicial review by the Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Nunes asserts that he
was disabled since his alleged onset date of May 29, 2012.
Doc. No. 31 at 1. For the reasons stated below, the Court
DENIES Nunes's Motion to Reverse, Doc. No. 20, and ALLOWS
the Defendant's Motion to Affirm, Doc. No. 29.
Standard of Review
because the Appeals Council (“AC”) granted
review, the Court considers the Council's decision as a
final decision. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07
(2000) (“SSA regulations provide that, if the Appeals
Council grants review of a claim, then the decision that the
Council issues is the Commissioner's final
decision.”). Accordingly, the Court reviews the AC
decision and the portions of the ALJ decision that it
adopted. Id. The Court's jurisdiction is limited
to reviewing the Administrative Record to determine whether
the ALJ applied the proper legal standards and whether the
decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Manso-Pizarro v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 16 (1st Cir.
1996) (per curiam). Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the
record as a whole, could accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Rodriguez v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981).
Determinations of credibility and the resolution of conflicts
in the evidence are for the Commissioner and not for the
doctors or for courts. Id.; see Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399 (1971).
administrative findings of fact are not conclusive
“when derived by ignoring evidence, misapplying the
law, or judging matters entrusted to experts.”
Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999)
(per curiam). If the Court finds that the Commissioner's
decision is based on legal error or is not supported by
substantial evidence, it has the power to modify or reverse
the Commissioner's decision, with or without remanding
for rehearing. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
ALJ's RFC Finding
to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) and 416.920(e), the ALJ
must determine a claimant's RFC, which is a
claimant's ability to do physical and mental work on a
sustained basis despite limitations from her impairments. In
making the RFC finding, the ALJ must consider all of the
claimant's impairments, including impairments that are
not severe. See 20 CFR 404.1520(e), 404.1545,
416.945; SSR 96-8p. The ALJ formulated Nunes's RFC as
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that the claimant is limited to
standing or walking at least 6 hours in an 8-hour day;
sitting with normal breaks about 6 hours in an 8-hour day;
occasionally climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, or crawling; never climbing ropes, ladders, and
scaffolds; occasionally pushing and pulling with his left
upper extremity; occasionally interacting with the public,
coworkers, and supervisors; and performing simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks. The claimant must further avoid
concentrated exposure to noise and moderate exposure [to]
vibrations, fumes, odors, dust, gases, and poor ventilation.
R. at 129-30.
time of the ALJ's decision in September 2014, Social
Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-7p was the standard
governing the evaluation of symptoms in disability claims.
See SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186 (July 2, 1996). In
March 2016, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) published SSR 16-3p, a new ruling
superseding SSR 96-7 on the subject. See SSR 16-3p,
2016 WL 1237954 (March 16, 2016). This new ruling was
effective when the AC issued its decision on May 18, 2016.
See R. at 9. While the AC did not explicitly state
whether it applied SSR 96-7p or SSR 16-3p, Nunes contends
that because the AC adopted the ALJ's findings, and the
ALJ applied SSR 96-7, the AC's decision relies on SSR
96-7. Doc. No. 31 at 9 (“The AC adopted the
‘ALJ's statements regarding the pertinent
provisions of the' Commissioner's ...