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Boyde v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 11, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Matthew Charles Boyde (“Mr. Boyde” 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 his claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits. Currently pending are Claimant's motion to reverse the Commissioner's decision denying his disability benefits [ECF No. 13], and the Commissioner's cross-motion for an order affirming the decision. [ECF No. 15]. For the reasons described herein, the Court finds that the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision was supported by substantial evidence and therefore DENIES Claimant's motion to reverse and remand and ALLOWS the Commissioner's motion to affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Statutory and Regulatory Framework: Five-Step Process to Evaluate Disability Claims

         “The 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).

         The 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.

         When 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 granted.

Seavey, 276 F.3d at 5 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920).

         B. Procedural Background

         Claimant filed his applications for SSDI and SSI benefits on July 24, 2014. [R. 20, 210-26].[1] He alleged that he became disabled on December 31, 2012, due to arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) with hypervigilance and anxiety disorder, and dyslexia. [R. 210, 217, 258]. His date last insured was September 30, 2015. [R. 21].

         The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied Claimant's applications for SSI and SSDI benefits on September 25, 2014 [R. 134-39], and again upon reconsideration on December 3, 2014. [R. 142-47]. Thereafter, Claimant requested an administrative hearing [R. 148], and a hearing took place before ALJ Daniel J. Driscoll on January 14, 2016. [R. 39]. Claimant, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing. Id On February 24, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Claimant was not disabled. [R. 33]. The SSA Appeals Council denied Claimant's Request for Review on May 15, 2017. [R. 1-6]. On July 18, 2017, Claimant 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].

         C. Factual Background

         Claimant was born in September 1983 and was 29 years old on the alleged onset date. [R. 210, 217]. He lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts with his wife and two children. [R. 44-45]. Claimant attended school through the ninth grade and has previously worked as a cashier, food preparer and dishwasher, landscape and gas station attendant. [R. 46-58, 259].

         D. The ...

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