United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER (DOCKET NO. 18) AND
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM THE COMMISSIONER'S
DECISION (DOCKET NO. 22)
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action for judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner” or “SSA”) denying the
application of Brian Dorow (“Plaintiff”) for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff
filed a motion (Docket No. 18) seeking a reversal of the
Commissioner's decision. The Commissioner filed a
cross-motion seeking an order affirming the decision of the
Commissioner (Docket No. 16). For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's motion is granted
and Plaintiff's motion is
parties are familiar with the factual history of this case,
the standard of review, and the applicable five-step
sequential analysis. Accordingly, the court will review the
procedural and substantive history of the case as it relates
to the arguments set forth by the Plaintiff.
applied for DIB and SSI on November 13, 2013 (Tr. 77, 78). He
alleged disability beginning July 18, 2008, due to severe
anxiety, depression, back pain, and high blood pressure (Tr.
233, 237). His applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 77- 78, 97-98). After a March 2, 2015
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 16,
2015 (Tr. 10, 26). The Appeals Council declined to review,
and the ALJ's decision became final on June 15, 2016 (Tr.
1). Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, and
this case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 18, 2008, his alleged onset date
(Tr. 16). At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: affective disorder; anxiety
disorder; cannabis abuse (Tr. 16). At step three, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
medically equal any condition in the Listing of Impairments
(Tr. 16). Next, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following
[T]he claimant has the [RFC] to perform a full range of work
at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: the claimant must perform unskilled tasks, work
with simple work-related decisions and few workplace changes.
The claimant can tolerate minimal interaction with the
general public and occasional interaction with co-workers and
supervisors. (Tr. 18).
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff able to perform past relevant
work as a packager (Tr. 20). Accordingly, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 21).
seeking to reverse the decision, Plaintiff argues that the
ALJ erred because the he did not properly rely on opinion
evidence in forming Plaintiff's Residual Functional
Capacity (RFC) did not match a single expert's opinion,
specifically that the RFC did not contain any limitations
relating to Plaintiff's alleged deficits in pace, to
which Plaintiff testified and Dr. Carter noted. Plaintiff
also contends that the ALJ erred by failing to consider a
determination by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that
Plaintiff was disabled for purposes of receiving Emergency
Assistance to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children
to Consider Pace Limitation in RFC Assessment
assesses what a claimant “can still do despite [his]
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a), 416.
945(a). The claimant has the burden of providing evidence to
establish how her impairments limit her RFC. Freeman v.
Barnhart, 274 F.3d 606, 608 (1st Cir. 2001).
It is the duty of the ALJ to determine a claimant's RFC
based upon the entire record. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545, 404.1546. In assessing an RFC, the ALJ
can “piece together the relevant medical facts from the
findings and opinions of multiple physicians.”
Evangelista v. Secretary of Health and Human
Services, 826 F.2d 136, 144 (1st Cir.
argues that the ALJ erred because he ignored medical evidence
and the opinions of state agency consulting physicians and
did not assess more limitations to his RFC to account for Dr.
Carter's opinion on Plaintiff's speed on the issue of
pace. Plaintiff also contends that the ALJ was bound by Dr.
Carter's opinion. He asserts, “Dr. Carter was the
only acceptable medical source to provide an opinion
concerning [Plaintiff's] abilities with respect to
productivity and speed, i.e., persistence and pace, ”
and therefore, it was error for the ALJ to form the RFC
absent a reference to Plaintiff's pace absent
contradicting medical evidence.
decision, the ALJ twice makes reference to Dr. Carter's
assessment from March 2014, noting Dr. Carter's mention
of speed of performance on the job. The ALJ found that the
Plaintiff's alleged symptoms and the severity of them
taken largely from his recent testimony and is not entirely
supported by the medical evidence or record; he has received
little in the way of actual treatment. (Tr. 19-20). While the
ALJ in fact noted the Plaintiff's alleged productivity
and speed issues, he did not find them to be supported by the
record and accordingly, afforded them only moderate
weight. (Tr. 20). An ALJ is expected to be guided
by a physician's or other expert analysis of the
claimant's functional capacity, “unless the
claimant has such minimal impairment that it obviously poses