United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG, DISTRICT JUDGE
Lawrence Cameron, Jr. (“Cameron”) seeks judicial
review, pursuant to section 405(g) of the Social Security
Act, of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”)
denying his claim for Social Security disability insurance
benefits. Pl.'s Compl. (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1;
Pl.'s Mot. Reverse (Incorporated Mem. Law)
(“Pl.'s Mem.”) 2, ECF No. 14.
argues that the hearing officer's decision, which the
Appeals Council's denial of review made final,
lacks substantial evidence and thus amounts to legal error.
Pl.'s Mem. 4, 10. First, Cameron asserts that the hearing
officer erred in his determination at step four of the
disability evaluation that Cameron was capable of work as a
machine packager, which Cameron submits does not reflect his
prior work. Id. at 4-10. Second, he argues that the
hearing officer erred by ignoring another hearing
officer's determination of Cameron's residual
functional capacity in an earlier disability benefits
adjudication. Id. at 10-11.
first applied for disability insurance benefits from the
Social Security Administration on February 22, 2011, alleging
disability beginning January 1, 2009. Administrative R.
Social Security Proceedings (“Admin. R.”) 69, ECF
No. 13. The Social Security Administration denied his
application on August 10, 2011, again upon reconsideration on
February 10, 2012, and a third time after a hearing before
hearing officer Constance Carter (“Hearing Officer
Carter”) on December 20, 2012. Id. at 66-79.
The Appeals Council upheld Hearing Officer Carter's
decision on April 17, 2013. Id. at 62.
filed for disability insurance benefits again on June 19,
2014, this time alleging disability beginning April 1, 2009
(later amended to the day following Hearing Officer
Carter's unfavorable decision, December 21, 2012), with a
date last insured of June 30, 2013. Id. at 21. The
Social Security Administration denied this application in
September 2014, again on reconsideration in December 2014,
and once again after a hearing before the present hearing
officer in May 2016. Id. at 21, 34. At this more
recent hearing, the hearing officer heard testimony from
Cameron, who was represented by counsel, and James Sarno
(“Sarno”), a vocational expert. Id. at
39-61. The hearing officer denied Cameron's application
at step four of the sequential disability analysis, finding
that Cameron retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his past relevant work.
Id. at 34; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1565.
The Appeals Council denied Cameron's request for review,
Admin. R. 1-7, making that decision final and ripe for
judicial review, see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed a complaint with this Court on September 21, 2017
seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits.
Compl., ECF No. 1. The Commissioner filed an answer and the
administrative record on December 12, 2017. Def.'s
Answer, ECF No. 12; Admin. R., ECF No. 13. Both parties then
filed motions (Cameron, to reverse, and the Commissioner, to
affirm) and accompanying memoranda. See Pl.'s
Mem.; Def.'s Mot. Order Affirming Decision Commissioner,
ECF No. 19; Mem. Law Supp. Def.'s Mot. Affirm
(“Def.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 20. This Court heard
oral argument on the motions on July 23, 2018 and took the
matter under advisement. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF
was born on January 14, 1969 and completed schooling through
the twelfth grade. Admin. R. 170. Cameron has suffered from
depression, anxiety, lumbar and cervical degenerative disc
disease, hallux limitus (stiff big toe joint), and irritable
bowel syndrome (“IBS”). Id. at 24, 29.
section outlines the facts relevant to the issues raised
here, regarding Cameron's prior work and the two hearing
officers' RFC findings.
Cameron's Prior Work
Cameron listed in his Work History Report at least eight
different jobs he held in the fifteen years prior to the
onset of his alleged disability, id. at 187, the
hearing officer considered only one of them relevant to the
prior work standard, id. at 42-47. This was
Cameron's job at an adhesive factory, which he obtained
through an agency called Resource Connection and held between
2003 and 2006. Id. at 44, 187.
Cameron described it, in this role he:
[p]ushed carts w[ith] raw glue trays 10-20 ft. to grinding
machine, use[d] lift assist to put glue slabs on conveyer
belt to grind glue into 1, 000 lb[.] totes. [Used] forklift
to move totes on to pallets, lifted totes w[ith] forklift to
blending machine, after blending move[d] pallet w[ith] totes
to the drying machine, vacuumed around glue into dryer,
sometimes package[d] glue in 30-50 lb[.] boxes or bags, put
on pallet, moved pallet w[ith] forklift to warehouse.
Id. at 190.
the second hearing on May 11, 2016, Cameron had the following
colloquy with the hearing officer regarding this role:
CAMERON: One department made the glue, and the department
that I was in, I ground the glue. I was operating the
machine, blending it, and drying it and packaging it.
HEARING OFFICER: And did you operate a machine to do that?
The machine did all of those things for you?
HEARING OFFICER: But you controlled the machine?
HEARING OFFICER: Okay. And that was a sit-down, stand-up job?
HEARING OFFICER: Standing up a lot. And any lifting involved?
Approximate amount of weight?
CAMERON: During packaging, it was either 30- to 50-pound
Id. at 44-45.
in the hearing, Sarno characterized Cameron's past work
according to the classifications in the Department of
Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”). Id. at 58. He described
Cameron's role at the adhesive factory as a
“machine packager” and classified it as an
unskilled position with a Specific Vocational Preparation
(“SVP”) of two and a medium exertional level.