United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
JOSEPH T. LYNCH, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER (DOCKET NO. 17) AND
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM THE COMMISSIONER'S
DECISION (DOCKET NO. 20)
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 Joseph T. Lynch (“Plaintiff”) for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). An administrative law judge
(ALJ) found that Plaintiff was not disabled from January 1,
2012, his alleged onset date, through February 23, 2015, the
date of the decision, because he was capable of performing a
significant number of unskilled sedentary jobs that would
accommodate his heart condition and moderate mental
limitations. Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment to reverse
the decision of the Commissioner (Docket No. 17). The
Commissioner filed a cross-motion seeking an order affirming
the decision of the Commissioner (Docket No.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is
granted and Plaintiff's motion
parties are familiar with the factual history of this case
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.
April 26, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI
(AR. 97-98, 243-55), alleging that he became disabled on
January 1, 2012, due to bipolar disorder and a “heart
defibrillator” (AR. 271). He said he was fired from his
management position at Fitchburg State University because he
was too aggressive and too passive (AR. 292, 316, 345).
Plaintiff's applications were denied at two levels of
administrative review (AR. 97-166), and he requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge (AR. 183-84).
January 12, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with an attorney and
testified at a hearing before the ALJ (AR. 49-96). A
vocational expert also testified (88-94). On February 23,
2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled (AR.
20-48). That decision became final on August 8, 2016, when
the Appeals Council denied review (AR. 1-6). See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2012, his
alleged onset date (AR. 26). At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: cardiac
condition and atrial fibrillation following mitral valve
repair surgery; affective disorder; and personality disorder
(AR. 26). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal any of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (AR.
26-27). Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) for sedentary work, as defined in
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), 2 except
He has frequent ability to stoop, kneel, and crouch. The
claimant has occasional ability to balance, crawl, and climb
ramps and stairs. He must not climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme heat, cold, humidity, and wetness. He must avoid
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants such as fumes,
odors, dust, and gases. The claimant must avoid concentrated
exposure to hazardous conditions such as unprotected heights
and dangerous machinery, including automotive machinery. He
is able to perform work that consists of unskilled tasks,
work with simple work related decisions with few workplace
changes. There can be brief and superficial interaction with
the general public. There can be occasional interaction with
coworkers and with supervisors.
(AR. 27-42). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could
not do his past relevant work as a facilities manager or
maintenance supervisor (AR. 42). At step five, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled because he could still do a
significant number of other jobs, i.e., order clerk, shipping
checker, and visual inspector (AR. 42-43, citing AR. 91-93).
Court may not disturb the Commissioner's decision if it
is grounded in substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. 405(g);
1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence exists when there is
sufficient evidence that a reasonable person could agree with
the conclusion. Rodriguez v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir.
1981). Thus, this Court must uphold the Commissioner's
findings “if a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence
in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to
support his conclusion, even if the administrative record
could support multiple conclusions.” Ortiz v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765,
769 (1stCir. 1991) (quotation marks and citation
assessment, the ALJ acknowledged that Plaintiff's heart
condition and mental impairments severely limit his functions
and took that into account when he assessed Plaintiff's
RFC for simple, sedentary work with limitations on the social
and environmental conditions. (AR. 27-42). The relevant
question is not whether Plaintiff was symptom-free, but
whether his symptoms were persistent and severe enough to
preclude all substantial gainful employment. The RFC
“is the most you can still do despite your